The Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) announced on Monday that it is looking for a CEO to run the trade group. The organization has retained Korn/Ferry, one of the largest and most renowned executive search firms in the country, to conduct a comprehensive search for a new – and judging from the posted profile – heavyweight CEO.
But something seemed a little strange to us about this news out of CEDIA…
According to CEDIA’s release, the decision to search for a CEO was made “earlier this year” in the wake of the decision by current Executive Director and COO Don Gilpin – announced in October of last year – that he has decided to leave the organization.[See the official Gilpin announcement here…] Somewhat mysteriously, Gilpin’s announcement of his departure gave no reason for his exit and the organization gave no indication of its plans other than to say that the board would begin to “search for Gilpin’s replacement immediately.”
Along with their announcement of this CEO search, CEDIA also said it was promoting Tabatha O’Connor to the position of Chief Operating Officer – which is half of Gilpin’s title. So, on the face of it, it appears that CEDIA has decided to split up Gilpin’s position to an operational role (COO) and a strategic management role (CEO).
Signaled a desire…
The association says that the “continuing growth and international expansion of CEDIA signaled a desire to better define its executive structure to best support the long term goals of the organization.” That’s a mouthful, but a rough translation appears to be the job has gotten too big for any one person – so Gilpin’s being replaced by two.
But in what we consider an odd twist, this same announcement refers the the position of Chief Executive Officer as a “newly created” one – completely ignoring the fact that the organization previously had a fairly well know and popular CEO, Utz Baldwin, from 2008-2011. Much like the more recent Gilpin announcement, Baldwin’s departure was also unexpected and announced with vague language that gave no reason for the departure other than to say that Board and Baldwin “have agreed on Mr. Baldwin’s departure from CEDIA.”
No small amount of consternation…
The abrupt announcement caused no small amount of consternation amongst many CEDIA members, a good number of whom supported Baldwin. And, as we reported, within days of Baldwin’s departure, CEDIA held a members’ webinar in which Randy Stearns, then head of the Board, discussed a variety of topics – but never mentioned Baldwin. Stearns even presented a new strategic plan to members that insiders told us was largely created by Baldwin, a fact that was also not mentioned.
After Baldwin’s departure, several sources suggested to us he was forced out by the Board. Neither CEDIA nor Baldwin would confirm this characterization, but we heard it from multiple sources close to the situation. One top-level CEDIA source, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly for the organization, told us that the CEDIA board and other top members had decided to return to its “volunteer” roots and sought to gain greater direct control of the organization – after years of professional management via CEO Baldwin and others.
A boomerang situation…
If that in fact was the case, than we appear to be in a boomerang situation – as the organization, after years of direct member control – now apparently seeks to install professional management to run the organization. We have reached out – multiple times – to try to get a comment on this announcement from CEDIA, but our calls were not returned by the time this story was posted.
We were successful however, in speaking with Utz Baldwin, to whom we had reached out for comment on this new CEDIA development. Baldwin is a co-founder and CEO of Plum, a new Internet of Things (IoT) company about to launch an interesting app-interfaced wireless lighting control system.
Baldwin won’t speculate, but has something to say…
Baldwin declined to speculate about what’s going on at the organization, noting he has had no involvement with it for almost four years now. He also declined to revisit the circumstances surrounding his exit from the group which, at this point at least, is water under the bridge as far as Baldwin is concerned. But he certainly had a reaction to the news of their decision to hire a CEO.
“I commend the leadership for making the decision to bring somebody in,” Baldwin told us. “I think the organization does need a strategic visionary individual that can dedicate 100% of their time on the organization. So I’m happy that the board and the executive committee came to a decision to essentially go back to what previous boards felt – that they needed a full-time, paid leader of the organization.”
Of course, some would say, they had that once before.
Learn more about CEDIA at: www.cedia.net.