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Norris Quits as Chairman, CEO of Control Data : Price Takes Over, Sees 'Very Large Loss' for '85

January 11, 1986|DONNA K. H. WALTERS | Times Staff Writer

William C. Norris resigned Friday as chairman and chief executive of Control Data, the company he founded nearly 29 years ago, turning over the reigns of the troubled company to President Robert M. Price. The new chairman of the Minneapolis firm began his tenure by acknowledging that the company would post a "very large loss" from its computer business for 1985.

Price also said the company's peripheral products unit would lose money again in 1986.

Norris, 74, said he would remain an active member of the board. He called the change the "culmination of an orderly process" begun in 1980 when Price was elected president and chief operating officer and Norbert R. Berg was named deputy chairman. Price will retain the president's job; Berg on Friday was given the additional title of chairman of the executive committee.

But the transition also is a reflection of the company's current woes. "It's the kind of changing of the guard where the chief executive takes responsibilities for mistakes and the new chief executive comes in to try to turn the company around," said analyst Michael Geran, who follows the company for E. F. Hutton in New York.

Price's job will be a difficult one; analysts have estimated that the company's losses for 1985 will come in at $400 million. Control Data is in technical default on bank loans of $309 million. It is selling its Ticketron unit for an estimated $100 million. In 1984, it reported profits of $31.6 million.

The new chairman will have "a very limited time window" in which to turn the company around, Geran said. "Price will have to implement new policies and turn around a $5-billion (in annual sales) company--something that's never been done in the computer industry."

In his statement, Norris attributed the problems dogging the company to an "unfortunate combination of special circumstances." He said that "the most troublesome difficulties . . . have been of a short-term financial nature." Norris said Control Data is a strong company and rich in assets.

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