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Exelis is now part of Harris. Discover additional information here.

History of Exelis

Nearly a Century of Value-Creating Transformation

A Historic Call

The story of Exelis begins with a historic call — for its founders to develop phones. The original International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT) was created in 1920 by two brothers named Sosthenes and Hernand Behn who set out to build the first worldwide system of interconnected telephone lines. This was a case of a business catching up with its aspirational name as the company had a small beginning as the Puerto Rico Telephone Company, but grew quickly through strategic acquisitions and the purchase of telephony patents. The result was the creation of a major international provider of telephone switching equipment and telecommunication services.​


The Conglomerate Years

The next chapter for ITT can best be described as the conglomerate years. From 1960 to 1977, with Harold Geneen at the helm, ITT acquired more than 350 companies — at one time securing deals at the rate of one acquisition per week. The portfolio included well-known businesses such as Sheraton hotels, Avis Rent-a-Car, Hartford Insurance and Continental Baking, the maker of Wonder Bread. Under Geneen's management, ITT grew from a medium-sized business with $760 million in sales to a global corporation with $17 billion in sales.

Following the conglomerate years, Rand Araskog, who served as CEO from 1979 to 1995, embarked on a continuous course of restructuring through strategic divestitures and acquisitions to organize the company into more manageable segments. It culminated in 1995 when ITT split into three separate, independent companies: ITT Corporation, which was focused on the hotel and gaming businesses, ITT Hartford which became a stand-alone insurance operation, and ITT Industries, which started as a collection of manufacturing companies.


Building a Strong Management System

One decade later, ITT Corporation had been acquired; ITT Hartford had changed its name; and ITT Industries continued its transformation. Since 1995, under the leadership of Travis Engen, Lou Giuliano and Steve Loranger, ITT Industries — which changed its name back to ITT Corporation in 2006 —  dedicated itself to creating more livable environments, enabling communications and providing protection and safety. In recent years, the company has played an important role in vital markets including water and fluids management, global defense and security, and motion and flow control. Today's ITT is focused on engineering and operational excellence, strong values and leadership, product innovation and superior customer satisfaction in each of the markets it serves.

Throughout each chapter in its history, ITT has been known for transformative strategies that create value for shareowners, and in 2011 a new chapter has begun. On January 12, ITT Corporation announced it plans to separate into three independent publicly traded companies by the end of the year. 

Under the plan, ITT Corporation, which is now traded on the New York Stock Exchange as a highly engineered industrial products company that supplies solutions in the aerospace, transportation and energy markets, would execute tax-free spinoffs of its water-related businesses and its defense business to shareholders. 

A New Chapter For Exelis

exelis orange.JPGOn Jan. 12, 2011, ITT announced that its board of directors has unanimously approved a plan to separate the company's businesses into three distinct, publicly traded companies. On Oct. 31, 2011, Exelis (ek-'sel-ess) became a publicly traded company, led by David F. Melcher.

Today, the company trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol of "XLS."

Exelis is an energetic name that is derived from the word “excel,” which is rooted in “ex,” meaning “out in front” or “beyond.” The name Exelis signifies the expeditionary spirit, exceptional foresight and strong commitment to proactively anticipating and adapting solutions to our customers’ most critical problems.

Exelis is a leader in Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) related products and systems and information solutions, supplying military, government and commercial customers in the United States and globally.

2014 Spin-off of Vectrus​

On September 27, 2014, Exelis completed the spin-off​ of its former Mission Systems business division into a separate, publicly traded company, Vectrus, Inc. Vectrus was launched as a provider of infrastructure asset management, information technology and network communication services, and logistics and supply chain management.  

Exelis retained a portfolio of mission critical, affordable and platform agnostic products and services for managing global threats, conflicts and complexities, with future investments focused on strengthening four strategic growth platforms of Critical Networks; ISR & Analytics; Electronic Warfare; and Aerostructures.

Exelis is Now Part of Harris
In 2015, Exelis was acquired by Harris Corporation, creating a company with greater scale, capabilities, core franchises and more balanced business portfolio.  The combined company has a broad portfolio of advanced, technology-based solutions to solve government and commercial customers’ mission critical challenges.