Acer, former CEO spar over declining fortunes

Former CEO Gianfranco Lanci quit in March over differences with the Acer board

Acer on Wednesday charged its former chief executive officer, Gianfranco Lanci, with performance issues, after he had criticized the company's resistance to globalization in interviews with the media.

Lanci, who resigned from Acer on March 31, said this week from his native Italy that he was on the brink of making changes that would have led to the company's "de-Taiwanization", according to media reports.

He said that the board was resisting globalization by not hiring engineers outside Taiwan, among other things.

The public sparring comes as Acer reported a 21.2 percent year-on-year decline in first-quarter revenue.

The public sparring between Acer and Lanci is unlikely to hurt the company, which is poised to move ahead with the development of tablet PCs to overcome the revenue decline, analysts said.

"This particular spat won't have any effect on Acer's business, because Lanci is already gone," said Helen Chiang, research manager with IDC in Taipei. "Consumers will have no way of evaluating it."

Acer continues to pursue globalization, a company spokesman said. The company is not promoting a Taiwan focus or 'Taiwanization', and did not favor hiring only local staff, he added.

The Taiwanese company said that during Lanci's tenure there was high inventory, poor sales of mobile devices and a lack of vision.

Lanci could not be reached for comment.

Acer's board probably recognized Lanci's marketing savvy and trust among investors but wanted to develop tablets and feared he was the wrong person, analysts said.

Lanci and the board faced a "big split" as the former CEO focused on selling laptops while other senior leaders had plans for tablets and touchscreen phones, said Tseng Hsiao-chen, analyst with Taishin Securities Investment Trust in Taipei.

"Gianfranco had his way of controlling things, and the new leader wants to build his own management style," Tseng said. "That takes a while to break in."

"The future of Acer is in PCs, and it's safe for the next three years, but this is the age of convergence, and it's changing the playing field," said John Brebeck, head of Taiwan research for Yuanta Investment Consulting. "What Acer needs to prove, is that it can make it in smartphones or tablets."

Acer's spokesman confirmed that tablets are a priority for the company.

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Ralph Jennings

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