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Acer reshuffles execs amid growth

The appointment of an Italian executive to Acer's presidency is a symbol of the Taiwanese firm's increasingly global view.

Taiwanese PC maker Acer on Wednesday laid out its new executive structure, appointing a European executive as president as it prepares for the retirement of founder Stan Shih.

The company said that Gianfranco Lanci, who came to Acer in 1997 when the company acquired the notebook division of Texas Instruments, will become president Jan. 1. Current president JT Wang will become CEO and chairman upon the retirement of Shih at the end of the year. Shih, one of the pioneers of Taiwan's IT industry and Asian contract manufacturing, had said earlier that he would retire by the end of the year.

The executive changes come amid a growth spurt for Acer. In the 1990s, the company, which traditionally served as a contract manufacturer for IBM and others, attempted to become a worldwide PC brand. The effort sputtered and Acer retreated.

In the past year, however, Acer has reinvigorated its efforts to sell PCs under its own brand name, with greater success. In the second quarter, Acer became the fifth-largest PC maker worldwide and grew shipments by 30 percent, more than any other large PC maker.

Additionally, in the market that includes Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Acer surpassed Hewlett-Packard to become the top provider of notebooks in the region during the second quarter. Lanci has been running Acer's European and North American divisions.

"The U.S. is a difficult market for them (Acer), because they don't have the cachet they once had, but in Europe, they have found a nice match of aggressive pricing and promotions in the channels that is moving boxes," said Loren Loverde, an analyst at IDC, in July.

Two subsidiaries spun out of the Acer conglomerate in the early part of the decade, AU Optoelectronics and BenQ, are also experiencing growth.

Lanci's appointment can be seen as a symbol of Acer's increasingly global view. The company's high-level executives to date have come from Taiwan, and the company, like several large Asian conglomerates, works with the national government on technology initiatives.

As other PC makers are doing, Acer is also trying to expand into China. In a CNET visit to Acer offices in 1999, world maps identified the Chinese mainland as "The Republic of China," the official name of Taiwan.