In a surprising move, EFI announced on Tuesday, August 13, the appointment of industry veteran Jeff Jacobson as their new CEO. He replaces Bill Muir who has elected to step down. Jacobson brings 30 years of experience to the table and has had a long-time relationship with former EFI CEO Guy Gecht.
His résumé spells out prior experience of serving as COO or CEO with Presstek, Kodak, and Xerox. It also speaks well of his knowledge of the imaging industry with an emphasis on global graphic communications.
It was obvious to this observer that Bill Muir was not going to cut it at EFI. We have followed that company very closely since 2004. While Muir had an excellent reputation, his lack of knowledge of the print world was a distinct disadvantage.
At EFI Connect in January 2019, he appeared very uncomfortable with the audience and he wanted no part of the press. We asked to do an interview and he declined. At Connect, EFI has a special evening for the press and for years Guy Gecht would hold court with us along with the rest of his senior management team. Mr. Muir elected not to have dinner with us but did a walk through with Marc Olin, executive vice president, who introduced us to him.
Here he was, his first time out of the box and a chance to get to know the press in a very informal and social environment and it appeared he had a fear he was going to be asked something he could not answer.
We know Jacobson and more importantly, he knows us. We came to appreciate his talent and awareness of what needed to be done to be successful when he became CEO of Xerox in 2017.
We have followed Xerox for 40 years and we know many of the people who were working for Jeff. All of them were pleased that he followed Ursula Burns who had retired. One of them arranged for me to interview Jeff at Print17 in Orlando.
Before the interview, I asked a friend at Xerox what did he think of the change. “He is the best thing that has come along since Ann Mulcahy.” This was not meant to be derogatory towards Burns whom he respected a great deal. My opinion of Ursula Burns is well known, and she did an excellent job of dealing with the restructuring of Xerox and handing it off to Jeff.
Jacobson energized the company and was implementing a program to remake Xerox. Unfortunately, Carl Icahn took over and the last thing he wanted was a professional who knew the business and would never participate in a dismantling of the company. The destruction of Global Imaging Systems made it obvious what the “new” corporate strategy was.
If our assessment of Jeff Jacobson is correct, he will bring some badly needed skills on how to promote a company and its brand which is something that Gecht could never do.
We believe Gecht did an incredible job of taking a software company into the hardware side of the business and did so in spectacular fashion. He not only knew how to buy companies, he fully understood how to integrate them. He accomplished in reverse what all the hardware manufacturers could not do.
Gecht’s failing was that he never promoted EFI, particularly since Fiery is one of the most widely accepted brands in the print industry. It was obvious he possessed a brilliant engineering mind but as a marketer, he lacked the awareness of how to educate the public on just how well this company performed.
Jacobson will not make that mistake. We look forward to attending an EFI Press Conference and listening to what his plans are for the company. We can also add that we will interview Jeff Jacobson no later than January 2020 at EFI Connect in Las Vegas.
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