This article originally appeared in TV Technology.
Charlie Vogt has been named CEO of Harris Broadcast, effective today. He succeeds Harris Morris, who exited the company abruptly last week following “discussions with the board of directors.” Board chairman, Carl Vogel, made the announcement in the form of a memo to staff.
Vogt comes to Harris from Genband, a privately held Frisco, Texas-based company involved in voice over IP, with global operations and 1,700 employees. Vogt joined Genband in 2004 and led the company through a half-dozen acquisitions, including the 2010 purchase of Nortel Network’s Carrier VoIP and Application Solutions business for $182.5 million. The company was said to have 100% compound annual growth under his tenure. Before joining Genband, Vogt was president and CEO of Taqua, an IP-switching company.
Vogt is said to have a strong focus on operational integration. He also brings a strong base of IP experience to Harris at a time when the television industry is migrating to IP-based technology, Harris Broadcast Board Chairman, Carl Vogel, said.
“The radio and TV broadcasting industry is embarking on a significant transformation from digital to IP,” said Vogel, also a board member of Dish Network. “Charlie was a natural choice as his IP domain knowledge and experience gained while assisting global service providers and cable operators transition to IP has uniquely prepared him to lead the company as this industry undergoes a similar trajectory. We thank Harris Morris for his contributions in guiding Harris Broadcast as we acquired the business and transitioned the company to independence — we wish him well as he pursues new opportunities.”
Morris was named CEO of Harris Broadcast under Harris Corp. in February of 2010, and rode out the 2012 divestiture. Harris Corp. put the broadcast division on the block in May, 2012 and sold it to a Los Angeles-based equity investor — The Gores Group — the following December for $225 million.
Harris Broadcast has a long history that goes back to the manufacture of printing presses before the turn of the century. What became Harris Intertype Corp. purchased Quincy, Ill.-based Gates Radio in 1957, launching Harris into the broadcast business. Ten years later, Harris merged with Radiation, an electronics company serving the aerospace and military sectors located in Melbourne, Fla., where Harris Corp., is now based.
Radio frequency expert Doug Lung noted that the Harris Broadcast divestiture followed that of several other television transmitter makers, including Comark, which became Thomson Broadcast, and Axcera, originally started by two former RCA engineers.
“The transmitter business is difficult.,” he said “Even some well established companies — RCA and Townsend are two that I remember — don’t survive.”
Harris Broadcast was not transmitters alone, however. It became a television workflow vendor through a series of acquisitions in the first decade of the millennium, starting Palo Alto, Calif.-based Louth Automation for $85 million in 2000. Louth reported sales of $35 million in 1999. Harris next bought Denver-based Encoda Systems for $340 million in 2004. That company had fiscal 2004 revenues of $124 million. Privately held Leitch Technology of Toronto, was acquired in 2005 for $450 million. Two more companies — Astra Digital Video and OSI — were purchased for a total $67 million, in 2006.
The broadcast business reported an operating loss of $30.8 million on revenues of $486 million for fiscal 2010, a 17% decline in revenues from the previous year due in part to “significantly lower results in the transmission systems business,” according to Harris’ 2010 annual report. The period coincided with the end of the U.S. digital television transition, during which hundreds of TV stations replaced their transmission facilities.
Broadcast revenues peaked in fiscal 2011 at $545 million. The following year, when the division was put up for sale, it was reported as a discontinued operation and broken out as a $447.6 million write-down. The write-down was attributed part from an “unanticipated revenue decline and operating loss” for the third quarter in fiscal 2012 as a result of weaker demand in North America and longer lead times for international sales.
The Gores deal comprised $160 million in cash at closing, a $15 million subordinated promissory note and an earn-out of up to $50 million based on future performance.