Mon, May 02, 2011 - Page 12 News List

Reporter’s Notebook: Acer chairman J.T. Wang discusses the surprise dismissal of Gianfranco Lanci

existential threat:The Acer chairman reveals that the decision to remove the firm’s former chief executive came from a desire to strategically focus on new mobile devices

By Jason Tan 陳聯璟

The mood was gloomy when J.T. Wang (王振堂), chairman and chief executive of Acer Inc (宏碁), took to the stage at the investor conference in Taipei on Thursday.

“When our brain was diagnosed with a problem that had caused the whole body to malfunction, we had to be put on the operating table for a procedure,” he said.

Such were Wang’s opening remarks — and he once again impressed investors and the media with his straightforward attitude.

This time, he likened brain surgery to the Acer board’s dismissal of former chief executive and president Gianfranco Lanci in late March.

“It was a decision that caused jitters both inside and outside ... Everyone was wondering whether it was the end of the road for us,” Wang said.

He gave Lanci, a 14-year veteran at Acer, the credit for turning the Taiwanese firm into a worldwide PC name.

The Italian joined Acer after Texas Instrument’s PC division was bought by the Taiwanese company in 1997. His rapport with partners in Europe was partly the reason he was appointed, fueling Acer’s rise to become the world’s No. 2 PC brand.

Things started to turn sour when Lanci missed shipment and revenue targets two quarters in a row, prompting Acer to lose market share and miss out on new growth in the tablets and -smartphone markets.

“Lanci was unshakeable in his view that maximizing shipment volumes was the correct approach, but we found that direction to be a departure from the right track,” Wang said. “The board had to make a decision to change the chief executive and then seek to restructure the company.”

Both Wang and an internal source to which Taipei Times spoke to get an insight into Lanci’s so-called resignation on March 31, described the former chief executive in the same terms: goal-oriented, aggressive and unshakeable on his own decisions.

He was given so much power by Acer that he had a say on everything from sales to shipments and Wang didn’t interfere.

Under the old management, every division competed with others, creating problems and undermining competitiveness, Wang said.

“A consulting firm told us that when an executive has a say in almost everything, the company is likely to be slow in formulating strategies to cope with sudden changes in the industry,” Wang said.

The changes he referred to were the rise of tablet PCs and smartphones, which Acer believes are opening up a new host of opportunities, two fields in which the company is determined not to miss out.

In contrast to notebook PCs that create data, tablets and smartphones are more focused on -“consuming data,” meaning users spend more time using applications such as games on these devices, the chairman said.

At a time when the dominance of the Wintel (Windows and Intel) camp is being chipped away at by the rising strength of the Android and ARM-based system on a chip, Acer sees new chances aplenty.

Lanci’s successor, Jim Wong (翁建仁), 53, agreed to lead the Taiwanese maker through the new round of challenges as he saw “new opportunities” arising from this shift in the technology paradigm, Wang said.

The soft-spoken Wong marked his first public appearance at the investor conference since his promotion, making an immediate impression with his command of English during the presentation.

He joined the Latin American regional sales division of Acer in 1986.

In the following decade, Wong held various managerial positions overseeing product management and marketing, gaining extensive experience in original design manufacturer relations and brand management, according to Acer’s corporate profile.

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