Packard Bell founder and chief executive Beny Alagem is resigning, citing ?differences of opinion? with major shareholders Bull and NEC.
Alain Couder, currently chief operating officer of Groupe Bull, will succeed him as president and CEO, while the position of chairman remains vacant.
A Packard Bell/NEC spokesperson said on Wednesday that Alagem, who founded Packard Bell in 1986, "left of his own accord".
Despite the talk of a split with the shareholders, Alagem was keen not to over dramatise his exit. In a statement to the press, he said that Packard Bell/NEC started a search for a new COO seven months ago, with the understanding that the successful candidate would succeed him as CEO.
But he claimed he actively participated in the search. ?The shareholders have now reached a decision, so the time is right for me to find a new challenge," he said.
Packard Bell/NEC is a privately held company based in Sacramento, California. In the early 1990s, the company was very succesful with its low priced retail PCs.
In 1996, Packard Bell Electronics joined up whith French computer maker Bull and Japan?s NEC in a complex arrangement. Packard Bell was merged with Bull?s PC division Zenith Data Systems and with NEC?s PC business to form Packard Bell/NEC. NEC and Bull became the new company?s main shareholders.
The deal, masterminded by Alagem, saved Packard Bell by providing the solid financial footing the company had always lacked. It also gave the company a foothold in higher margin corporate markets.
But Packard Bell?s downturn had already started. In the past two years, it has steadily been losing market share to competitors such as Compaq. The company saw its US market share slip from 10.1 per cent in the first quarter of 1997 to just 7.9 per cent in the same period this year. Earlier this year, it announced plans for an initial public offering on the Nasdaq stock exchange, but no date has yet been set.
In an attempt to regain the initiative in the retail market, Packard Bell/NEC recently signed up with Cyrix. In May, the company launched a $699 PC based on a Cyrix microprocessor.
Alagem?s successor, Frenchman Alain Couder, joins the troubled company with little experience of the PC market ? and none at all of the fiercely competitive US retail scene.
Couder joined Bull in 1991 and held various management positions, including a stint as head of the company?s open systems and software division, before being named COO in September 1997. Before joining Bull, he was general manager of the networking division of Hewlett Packard France.
In a statement, NEC chairman Tadahiro Sekimoto said Packard Bell/NEC would remain an independent US company. ?The dynamics of the PC industry, especially the commercial marketplace, require both a strong US base and penetration into international markets," said Sekimoto.
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