Agilent Technologies announced plans Thursday to split itself into two separate companies, with one of the new companies to be based in Santa Rosa.
The electronics measurement division will be spun off into its own stand-alone, publicly traded company.
"Today Agilent announced the biggest and most profound change in our history," Bill Sullivan, Agilent president and CEO, said in a conference call.
The change came 13 years after Agilent was spun off from its original company, Hewlett-Packard, creating what is now Sonoma County's largest high-tech employer.
"It's a historic moment for the company, frankly," said Guy S?? president of the Electronic Measurements Group, who will stay on to lead the R&D, sales and marketing teams.
Agilent's life sciences and diagnostics divisions will retain the company name. The spinoff company, which is being referred to by Agilent as "the EM company," for electronic measurement, has not yet been named, executives said.
In Santa Rosa, more than 95 percent of the approximately 1,175 employees are part of the electronics measurement group, and will move to the new company, S??said. Employees found out about the spinoff Thursday morning, said Jeff Weber, Agilent spokesman.
Executives chose Santa Rosa for the headquarters of the new company because of the Sonoma County unit's deep expertise in technology, research and development, he added.
"The rationale for the separation of the company is very straightforward," Sullivan said. "Agilent is involved in two distinct investment and business opportunities, and as two separate companies we believe we will be able to deliver enhanced shareholder value."
Before the announcement, Agilent faced mounting pressure from shareholders who were unhappy with revenue losses in the electronics measurement division compared with growth in the life science and diagnostic divisions.