Ousted Acer C.E.O enlisted by Lenovo

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2011, 12:00am

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Nearly seven months after being ousted as chief executive at Acer, Gianfranco Lanci appears to have found a new home at mainland computer giant Lenovo Group.

Lanci, the outspoken Italian behind Taiwan-based Acer's rapid ascent in the computer industry over the past decade, was named by Lenovo late on Friday as a consultant who will work directly with top executives at the world's third-largest supplier of personal computers.

'As a consultant to us, Gianfranco brings years of expertise and insights to Lenovo that will help us strengthen our growing global consumer business,' Lenovo chief executive Yang Yuanqing said.

Based in Italy, Lanci will be focused on Lenovo's integration of Medion, a leading German consumer electronics company that was recently acquired by the group. Lenovo plans to accelerate its expansion in Europe through the Euro466 million (HK$5 billion) takeover, its biggest investment since acquiring IBM's personal computer business for US$1.75 billion in 2005.

Lanci has been asked to 'significantly enhance Medion's consumer presence, [distribution] channels, and capabilities in Western Europe', a Lenovo spokeswoman said. Market research firm International Data Corp (IDC) estimated that Medion had a 4 per cent market share in western Europe in the first quarter, while Lenovo had 0.5 per cent.

'Managing a multi-brand product portfolio is certainly going to be a challenge, as well as to expand in European countries where both Medion and Lenovo have a small footprint,' IDC research manager Eszter Morvay said.

Along with laptop and desktop PCs, Medion's product line includes televisions, computer monitors, digital audio players, refrigerators, toasters, satellite navigation systems and fitness equipment. Morvay said more than 60 per cent of Medion's annual personal computer shipments are to Germany, while the firm was also strong in Austria and Belgium.

That may be the sort of challenge that Lanci will relish, based on how he built up Acer's business across the continent.

Lanci joined Acer in 1997 as managing director of its operation in Italy after the mobile computing business of chipmaker Texas Instruments (TI) merged with the Taiwanese firm.

In 2003, he was appointed president of Acer's International Operation Business Group, which meant co-ordinating sales and marketing in the Emea (Europe, Middle East and Africa), US and South American markets, and was named president in 2005 and chief executive in 2008.

Acer unseated Lenovo as the world's third-biggest supplier of personal computers at the end of 2007 after its acquisition of US computer maker Gateway and European player Packard Bell. Early last year, Acer overtook Dell as the world's No 2 ranked personal computer supplier on the strength of hefty sales of its low-cost mini-notebooks, more commonly known as netbooks.

Lanci quit Acer in March this year after disagreements with a majority of board members on how best to compete in a fast-growing media tablet market led by Apple's iPad, which has resulted in a sharp decline in the Taiwanese firm's sales of netbooks and other laptop models.

At Lenovo, Lanci's responsibility in helping grow Medion's business in Europe will form a key part of the mainland company's drive to be the world's No 2 personal computer supplier. Lenovo had a 12.2 per cent global market share last quarter, behind Hewlett-Packard's 18.1 per cent share and Dell's 12.9 per cent.