InformationWEEK, November 24, 1996
FOUNDER AN WANG NAMES SON
|As observers wonder if Fred Wang can stop the firm's decline, An Wang will stay on as CEO.|
The younger Wang brings to the position 14 years of experience with the company. He joined Wang as a programmer after graduation from Brown University in 1972, and has worked his way up through the ranks as director of office systems marketing, head of research and development, treasurer, and executive vice president. His appointment as president is widely taken to mean that he will succeed his father as chairman and CEO.
The last president of Wang was John F. Cunningham, who resigned in July of 1985 when it became apparent to him that Fred Wang, already called the "crown prince," would be the company's next CEO. Cunningham, who had also been under fire from users and analysts who claimed he sacrificed service and support for corporate growth, is now chairman and CEO of Computer Consoles Inc., a directory assistance systems company turned general-purpose minicomputer vendor headquartered in Waltham, Mass.
Following Cunningham's resignation, An Wang himself took control of the company. In April, J. Carl Masi, executive vice president of sales and marketing, resigned rather than take another position overseeing the firm's joint ventures, and Wang Laboratories was left with yet another management gap. The Wang community may be surprised at the suddenness of Fred's promotion, but it was no secret that he was soon to be named to fill the power vacuum at the top.
Fred Wang's work on the VS 300, Wang's top-of-the-line system, together with the departure of the other top executives, made his appointment a logical move, according to George DiNardo, executive vice president at the Mellon Bank, in Pittsburgh, one of the largest Wang sites. "Our view of Fred is that he's quite talented and can do it. That may be the minority view, but that's our view. We saw him take control as a senior executive and bring the VS 300 operating system to fruition, and I think he's as qualified as anyone else. Whether he'll be able to turn around the income picture I don't know."
DiNardo predicts that Wang's strategy is first to bring out a "seamless PC" - one that is 100% IBM-compatible - in the first quarter of next year. "Wang's current IBM-compatible PC is, like so many of the trade, an almost-compatible," DiNardo explains. "The new desktop, large-capacity Wang PC is reputed to be seamless and powerful, a lot of capacity for the buck. That will help Wang a lot."
The second element of the strategy is expanded sale of the VS 300 to corporate customers. DiNardo reports that the once bug-ridden VS 300 operating system is over most of its difficulties and keeps getting better. He has the same kind of operating system headaches from IBM and DEC and he is satisfied with Wang's level of service and support. "But then," he notes, "no one services Mellon in a bad fashion and stays around. And we do a fair amount of our own maintenance." Other sources think Wang Laboratories has a deeper plan to bring out a new high-end system, called the 7100, to exorcise the sour feelings some users still have about the firm as a result of the VS 300.
DiNardo was particularly impressed by Fred Wang's work with Mellon on the VS 300 operating system problems a few months ago. "I said I'll be happy to bring you in here if you run the gauntlet. And Fred and his men spent half a day listening to our gripe list and did make some reactions and corrections. If that isn't executive demeanor, I don't know what is. So am I surprised by Fred Wang's promotion? No. Am I disappointed? No. Am I enthused? I think so." -- Diana ben-Aaron