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Leitch Taps Thorsteinson

Tim Thorsteinson, who delivered the Grass Valley Group out of financial jeopardy and into security as part of Thomson Broadcast, is now at the helm of another major industry manufacturer as president and CEO of Leitch.

"If you look at the players in the industry, there are a few in the middle of the market that have an opportunity to emerge as leaders in the marketplace over the next couple of years," says Thorsteinson. "After talking to the folks at Leitch, I feel they have a chance to win with a good brand, good people and a loyal customer base."

That scenario is similar to Grass Valley Group's a few years ago. The one big difference, Thorsteinson says: Leitch has a strong balance sheet. Prior to his working out a deal for the sale of Grass Valley to Thomson Broadcast the end of 2001, the company and the brand were in financial jeopardy. Today, that is no longer the case.

Thorsteinson's successor at Thomson is Jean Marc Hoffer, who is now vice president, Grass Valley products. Hoffer previously was vice president and general manager of Thomson's core business unit and also had experience as Grass Valleys' vice president, European sales. He will remain in Nevada City, Calif.

Leitch has been on the hunt for a new CEO since Margaret Craig resigned in July. Thorsteinson replaces Leitch director Stan Kabala, who spent much of his three months as interim CEO looking to contain costs. Fiscal fourth quarter 2003 revenues were $38.2 million, down 22% from the previous quarter. The company held that declining trend for the next two quarters, with revenues of $37.5 million in fiscal first quarter '04 and $36.4 million in the second.

Leitch's business is in turnaround mode, Thorsteinson says. Having invested significantly in R&D (a core tenet of his management style), Leitch faces the challenge of executing to get the resulting products sold in the market effectively.

One opportunity that Thorsteinson will investigate is to expand the company's product line. Right now, efforts are focused on a small segment of the professional video market: broadcasters. "The market is much broader [than broadcasters]," he says, "and Leitch needs to take advantage of that."

He says that, if he had been closer to retirement age, he might have stayed at Thomson. But, with two young children, it was time to find a new CEO challenge.