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Graphix Zone Founders Part of Trend at Top

HEARD ON THE BEAT / TECHNOLOGY

November 11, 1996|GREG MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The resignations of the top two executives at Graphix Zone Inc. in Irvine last week marked a significant milestone in the company's history. After all, the husband-wife team of Charles Cortright and Angela Aber had run Graphix Zone, a maker of multimedia CD-ROMs, since they founded the company in 1989.

But in a broader sense, they were just the latest to join the parade of top executives giving up their posts at high-tech companies in Orange County. So far this year, the CEO position has changed hands at more than half a dozen high-tech companies, including giants such as AST Research and Ingram Micro, as well as smaller firms such as Platinum Software and TouchStone Software.

Many of the departed executives had held their positions for a long time. Linwood A. Lacy had been chief executive of Ingram Micro in Santa Ana for about a decade before he resigned abruptly in a management dispute.

But experts say that in general, high-tech companies see more turnover in their executive suites than most other industries, mainly because the landscape of the high-tech industry can change so fast.

Market changes "that take 10 years to happen in some industries can happen in six months in high-tech," said Fred Whittlesey, a principal with Compensation & Performance Management Inc. in Newport Beach.

And in the case of young companies such as Graphix Zone, the entrepreneurs who started the company often must step aside for more experienced managers when the company evolves from a start-up to a mature enterprise.

High-tech may not be the best place to look for job security if you're a CEO, but as Whittlesey pointed out, there are rewards.

"In that industry, executives aren't looking for job security, they're looking for the big home run," he said. "In high-tech, some executives become millionaires in six months, so why would they stay around?"

Greg Miller covers high technology for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7830 and at greg.miller@latimes.com

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