RealTime IT News

Waitt Leaves Gateway Board

Gateway Founder and Chairman Ted Waitt said he will step down from the company's board following the company's annual shareholders meeting today. The executive said he is retiring to focus on "business and philanthropic interests."

The board will replace Waitt with former President and long-time Director Richard Snyder immediately after the meeting.

"This year marks my 20th year as Gateway's chairman," Waitt said in a statement. "It's been a great ride. We've built one of the best brands instantly recognizable around the world. But now my interests are vast and varied, and I'd like to be able to take on some new challenges in the next 20 years."

Waitt founded Gateway in 1985. The Irvine, Calif., company enjoyed tremendous success over the next decade, eventually becoming the third-largest seller of personal computers behind No. 2 HP and leader Dell.

But Gateway eventually suffered from the same sluggish PC selling cycle IBM, HP, Compaq and others felt around 2001. PCs eventually became such a commodity that prices dropped and differentiation points became a challenge.

To turn things around, the company scaled back its PC business in 2003, closing 76 retail stores and laying off 1,900 workers.

The company began putting more emphasis on the consumer entertainment market, selling high-end liquid plasma TVs and other home entertainment machines. The vendor also caters to corporate computing needs, selling servers and storage devices. The company is planning a significant new server launch later this month.

Gateway said the goal of the restructuring was to "focus on quality, service, support and total system value, not solely the lowest price."

That strategy hasn't changed. At today's meeting, Waitt and Gateway executives plan to review the company's direction since the March 2004 merger with eMachines. Since the merger, the company has been streamlining operations to function as a leaner machine.

Waitt said he plans to continue managing his private investment company, Avalon Capital Group. He will also step up his committment as chairman of The Waitt Family Foundation and three new non-profit institutes: the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery; the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention; and the Waitt Institute for Scientific Breakthroughs.

"I think that with the amount of time required, and my interests in the work of the institutes growing, it's only fair to the shareholders and the company to put in place someone who can give the shareholders the board leadership they deserve,", Waitt said.

Waitt's replacement, Snyder, is CEO of Ardesta LLC, an Ann Arbor, Mich., company focused on bringing small-tech products to market. The executive has been a director of Gateway since 1991 when he joined the company as executive vice president.

Snyder, who co-led the Gateway initial public offering with Waitt, was promoted to president and COO of Gateway in January 1996, a position he held until leaving the company as an employee in August 1997.

The board also elected Janet Clarke as an independent director to fill the open board seat, effective after today's meeting. Clarke is president and founder of Clarke Littlefield LLC, a firm that provides strategic advice to larger companies with an emphasis on marketing technologies.

Clarke will stand for election by the shareholders at the 2006 annual meeting.