Gianfranco Lanci turned to Lenovo after potential employer Samsung was unable to broker settlement
Taiwan’s Acer Inc. (TPE:2353) is in a troubled spot. The company’s PC sales have been plunging internationally at a time when competitors like Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and the Hong Kong-based Lenovo Group, Ltd. (HKG: 0992) are growing. Acer’s tablet is a flop. And perhaps most embarassing, the company’s new, plain-spoken CEO J.T. Wang assessed the build quality of his company’s products as “cheap” pieces of electronics, wishing they were more like Apple’s sleek offerings.
Likewise the company’s ex-CEO Gianfranco Lanci is also in a troubled spot, after his embattled former employer has filed suit against him, in his home nation of Italy.
Mr. Lanci enjoyed a long and prosperous run since he first joined Acer in 1997. In 2005 he became president [PDF] of the firm after the retirement of company founder Stanley Shih. He would go on to replace J.T. Wang as CEO (who would later return). Acer scooped up Packard Bell and Gateway to briefly capture the #2 spot in global PC sales in 2007.
Acer saw continued success with its popular netbooks, but ultimately started to slip. Mr. Lanci misjudged the strong demand for smartphones and tablets. To make matters worse, netbooks went from wildly popular to market duds. The cumulative effect was two quarterly misses in profit, and an unsold European netbook stockpile that led to a $150M USD writedown.
Mr. Lanci was canned. But he landed on his feet, quickly scoring a new executive position at Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930). Samsung — who is sixth in sales in Mr. Lanci’s native Europe (one spot behind his ex-employer Acer) hoped to negotiate a settlement with his former employer to void Mr. Lanci’s noncompete cause and let him start immediately.
Settlement talks apparently fell through, and Mr. Lanci was back on the market. He then landed a position as a consultant at Lenovo — potentially a more promising gig. The only problem was that Lenovo was no more able to convince Acer to settle that Samsung was.
Now Mr. Lanci is being sued for unspecified damages for violating his no-compete contract, which was supposed to last 12 months in the case of his departure from Acer. Acer writes to to the Financial Times, “We believe Mr. Lanci has clearly breached the terms of the non-compete agreement he entered into willingly . . . we believe we have a very robust case.”
Mr. Lanci has yet to formally respond to the case, but he previously stated that Acer’s failures since his tenure were their fault for not sticking with his push to make Acer more of a global company.