Orange County Business Journal

Lantronix Taps Former Mindspeed Exec as CFO

Chris Casacchia Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jeremy Whitaker has been named chief financial officer for Lantronix Inc. in Irvine after spending the past nine months as vice president and corporate controller for Newport Beach-based chipmaker Mindspeed Technologies Inc.

The hiring fills a month-long gap in the upper-management ranks of Lantronix, which makes networking gear. It's also the second hire from Mindspeed in that time, following Kurt Busch's arrival.

Busch last month replaced Larry Sanders, a former Lantronix chairman who took over as interim chief executive in late June as part of a shake-up that followed the resignations of his predecessor, Jerry Chase, and financial chief Reagan Sakai, who both left under fire.

Busch most recently served as senior vice president and general manager for Mindspeed, where he led the company’s $52 million high-performance analog division.

Lantronix makes electronic devices and software that allow vending machines, thermostats, retail terminals, ATMs and other machines to be accessed via the Internet or other computers.

The company’s solutions are marketed to the healthcare, security, government, utilities, data and information technology management, and industrial automation markets.

Competitors include Alabama-based Avocent Corp. and Digi International in Minnesota and Austin, Texas-based Freescale Semiconductor Inc.

Whitaker had served as vice president of finance and accounting for Lantronix from August 2005 to January 2011.

“Jeremy's familiarity with Lantronix and more than 10 years of dedicated senior financial leadership makes him the ideal individual for this position,” Busch said. “Jeremy's appointment marks an important step in ensuring that Lantronix has strong financial discipline in place and fulfills a key role in our continuing efforts to build a world-class executive team.”

With a new chief executive and finance chief in position, Lantronix will look to move past its leadership troubles.

The turmoil hit a boiling point in June when former chief executive Chase and financial chief Sakai resigned over complaints raised by the company’s largest shareholder, Bernhard Bruscha, also a Lantronix director and cofounder.

Bruscha’s TL Investment GMBH, based in Germany, owns 38% of Lantronix.

The complaints led to an internal investigation that found improper use of travel expenses and stock options, as well as misleading statements made during conference calls with investors and analysts, according to the company.

Chase, in a resignation letter, said he disagreed with the findings and called the probe “flawed and unfair.”

Lantronix’s June quarter earnings report shed some light on the cost of the dust-up.

It included a $2.1 million charge related to the investigation, and said another $250,000 is expected for the current quarter.

The company also said it took an $862,000 hit in the June quarter as a result of the separation agreements with Chase and Sakai.

It expects another $150,000 in expenses in the current quarter related to consulting services per the separation agreements.

The company is now is focused on increasing margins, decreasing inventory and building its work force, according to Busch.

Lantronix reported revenue of $12 million in the June quarter, up 2% from a year earlier.