Bishop: My plans for SGI

Bishop takes the reins in the midst of reorganisation, pledges to continue company's refocusing efforts.
Written by John G.Spooner, Contributor

So who is this "new guy" at SGI?

Robert Bishop, who stepped in as chairman and CEO of the company on Monday, isn't new to SGI or to the computer industry. Bishop took over as SGI's chairman and CEO after the surprise resignation of Rick Belluzzo, who'd held the top spot since January 1998.

"I chose to take the job, because it's probably the most exciting challenge I've been faced with. I've been training (for this) for the last 35 years," Bishop said.

Bishop, a 35-year computer industry veteran, began his career with Digital Equipment in 1968. He later worked for Apollo Computer. He joined SGI's International Sales Division in 1986 and rose through the ranks at the company, eventually taking over control of SGI's global sales organisation, which he ran until 1995. Bishop has been a member of SGI's board of directors since 1993. "I heard about the job only in the last 48 hours," Bishop said. But he's in it for the long-term.

"For me this is an enormous challenge to accept the position of CEO of SGI," he said. "It also comes at a very critical time where we have announced a change in our strategy. The difficulty, of course, will be in the execution. The quality of this execution will be the key (to SGI's success)."

SGI is in the midst of a reorganisation, announced 10 August. The reorganisation includes plans to focus on the Internet, Linux, IA-64, Intel's 64-bit processor architecture, as well as graphics processor development, through an outsourcing deal with nVidia. nVidia and SGI will work together on new graphics products.

"I look forward to leveraging those four aspects of the strategy," Bishop said. And, for those who were wondering, "No, we are not planning to dress the company up for a sale," he said. "I wish to build the company back to strength."

The change in CEOs will not affect this new strategy, except in terms of the execution schedule, Bishop said. Nor will it affect the remaining management structure at SGI. Senior managers on Monday affirmed their commitment to the company. "We are not anticipating any other senior executive changes at this time," he said.

But even with a new CEO on board and a firm commitment from senior management, SGI will need to streamline its operations to regain some of its strength. The company plans to divest its Visual line of Windows NT workstations, the Cray computing division, and is now in discussions with other companies that may take over Cray. SGI reached a preliminary agreement to form a joint venture with another, undisclosed company, to develop and distribute the workstations. It also plans to spin off its MediaBase media streaming technology into a separate company.

Bishop also currently serves as a member of the Industry Advisory Commission, World Intellectual Property Organisation and the Governors of the World Economic Forum for Information Technologies.

Meanwhile, former SGI CEO Belluzzo, who had been heavily wooed by Compaq Computer during its CEO search, left to take a new job at an undisclosed company. "This was a voluntary, personal decision on Rick's part. We understand he has accepted a non-competitive, non-CEO position with another company," said Bill Kelly, an SGI vice president.

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