Waitt, who served as Gateway chairman for 20 years, addressed the company's investors during its annual meeting in Costa Mesa, Calif. His departure comes at a time when sales of Gateway computers are showing signsand the company is about to post its first profitable year since 2000.
"When I look back through the 1980s and 1990s, those were some of the funniest experiences I had and, sometimes, some of the most difficult...but I'm a better person for it, no doubt," said Waitt, who is leaving the company a year before his term as chairman expires.
The 42-year-old former Iowan has indeed had a wild ride with the company, which, in keeping with its Midwest origins, was known for packaging its computers in boxes designed to look like black-and-white cowhide. Waitt said the machines are so heavily linked to his identity that "people confuse me with Gateway."
Waitt, who in 2000 had returned to his post as CEO and last year, said his plans include further focus on his private investment firm, Avalon Capital Group, and on several institutes that bear his name, including the Waitt Institute for Scientific Discovery and the Waitt Institute for Historical Discovery.
Richard Snyder will take over for Waitt as chairman. Snyder has been a Gateway board member since 1991 and a former president and chief operating officer with the company.
Waitt issued high praise for Snyder in his new role, saying, "I can't think of anyone better or more proud of to call the next chair of Gateway."
The past year has been difficult for the company. Gateway, whichand saw Inouye assume the CEO title, cut costs extensively. But the company was able to post profits in three consecutive quarters and is in line for its first profitable year since 2000, Inouye said.
"We effectively disassembled the company and went through a lot emotionally," Inouye said. "We had loyal employees who worked their butts off."