AFTER 35 YEARS ….. NEW C.E.O. AT PRINTRONIX INC
AFTER 35 YEARS ….. NEW C.E.O. AT PRINTRONIX INC
2009-08-11 at 12:21:27 pm #22527
Longtime Printer Maker Printronix Sees Executive Shift
Leadership of Printronix Inc., an Irvine-based maker of industrial printers, has changed hands after 35 years under the same executive.Randy Eisenbach, 58, was recently promoted to the top spot at Printronix, which went private two years ago.Bob Kleist, who now is in his 80s, started Printronix in 1974. He remains the company’s chairman and helps manage some customer relationships.The transition marks the end of an era at Printronix, which is one of Orange County’s oldest technology companies.Kleist and business partner Gordon Barrus were the original inventors of what’s known as the line matrix printer. This type of printer creates text on a page by printing very closely spaced dots.The two men tinkered in a garage in Playa del Rey until they had a prototype of a printer that was faster and cheaper than the ones on the market at the time.Line matrix printers since have become the industry standard for box labels, barcodes, invoices and reports.Eisenbach was brought in last year to handle business development and guide the company through the tricky acquisition of assets from bankrupt competitor TallyGenicom LP of Chantilly, Va.
In May, the company announced that Eisenbach would succeed Kleist.
He officially was promoted from chief operating officer to chief executive last month.Printronix bought the U.S.-based assets of TallyGenicom, which makes printer supplies and parts, as well as toner, ink and ribbons for use with other printer brands.
The TallyGenicom deal took the better part of a year and wasn’t a typical acquisition.
Printronix had to bid for the bankrupt company’s assets in an auction, delaying the deal for months.The auction turned out to be a sort of formality, since Printronix was the sole bidder. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.As part of the deal, Printronix got TallyGenicom’s brand name, its line matrix printer business, intellectual property rights, a service center in Renton, Wash., and a plant in Mexico.
TallyGenicom is now a reseller of Printronix gear and vice versa.
The deal gave Printronix a near monopoly on industrial line matrix printers.“With that acquisition, we essentially have 90%-plus market share worldwide,” Eisenbach said.It also allowed Printronix to expand in to fast-growing markets such as China, India, Africa and the Middle East.“Ours is a very highly mature business in the developed markets,” Eisenbach said. “It is much earlier in the product lifecycle curve in emerging markets.”Like Printronix, TallyGenicom’s printers are used in the healthcare, transportation, manufacturing and retail industries.One of Printronix’s biggest customers is Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The executive shifts cap two years of big changes at Printronix.
In 2007, the $108 million buyout by San Francisco private equity firm Vector Capital took the company private after nearly 30 years of being publicly
The move gave Printronix a bit of shelter:
The high costs of regulatory compliance were eating into profits and the company had put a lot on the line for a technology that didn’t take off as fast as expected.“It took away the burden of costs and the burden of making decisions based upon what that decision is going to do to a short-term stock price, versus long-term shareholder value,” Eisenbach said. “As a public company there was not a great deal of capital to do acquisitions and fund external growth.”In March, the company sent the last of its local manufacturing to factories in Nogales, Mexico, which is on the Arizona border, and undertook a big restructuring.At its peak, the company had some 500 workers here.These days, Printronix has about 250 local workers and more than 500 in all.
The Business Journal estimates Printronix sees about $150 million in yearly sales.
Eisenbach is a Texan through and through: He’s got the gravely-voiced drawl and the raucous laugh.Before joining Printronix, he was chief operating officer of Canadian software company Corel Corp., which was bought by Vector in 2003.Corel went back to being publicly traded in 2006 after a series of three acquisitions, which Eisenbach managed.
He has some tough shoes to fill.
Where Kleist is known as an inventor and technology expert, Eisenbach is an operations guy.“Bob is a great strategist and a great technologist,” Eisenbach said. “I tend to be an organization guy. I grew up in manufacturing. My leadership style tends to be much more picking a direction and sticking to it.”Eisenbach said he’s “making no attempt” to fill Kleist’s very big shoes.“I can’t be Bob,” he said. “We have very different styles and a different mode of operation.”