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Two Top Execs Leaving Toshiba's Irvine Unit

Technology: Chairman Hideo Ito will return to Japan, while President Bob Brown will retire.


Toshiba America Electronic Components Inc. said Thursday its two top executives, including the first American to be president of a Toshiba Corp. operating company, will be leaving the Irvine firm.

Toshiba America Electronic's chairman and chief executive, Hideo Ito, will return to Toshiba's headquarters in Japan by June 1, when he will become general manager of the corporation's international division. He held his most recent assignment for three years, a common term before managers are rotated to a new position.

Bob Brown, a 17-year veteran of the electronic components unit, will retire June 30 after holding the position of president for four years. The 60-year-old Laguna Beach resident will be replaced by Hisashi Izumi, currently Toshiba Corp.'s assistant vice president of electronic devices sales and marketing in Japan.

As the first American to reach the rank of president, Brown faced a considerable challenge gaining acceptance and authority from his superiors in Japan, said a former senior manager at Brown's unit. "He had to build trust and confidence through the execution of his plans," said the former colleague, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Brown himself didn't comment about that challenge.

Toshiba America Electronic engages in engineering, manufacturing, marketing and sales. The firm has 700 employees nationwide, including 250 in Irvine. It is the North American arm of Toshiba's semiconductor and display devices companies.

Brown, who will continue to represent Toshiba in community affairs, said he had been discussing his plans to retire for about six months.

In an interview Thursday, Brown spoke proudly of having helped Toshiba move from fourth to third in world market share for semiconductors last year. The North American market "made a big contribution to that," he said.

The former manager estimated that U.S. operations account for more than 80% of Toshiba's worldwide production of memory components. The company does not break out its American operations from Toshiba's overall financial picture, he said.

Brown said that when he started with the company 17 years ago, the firm had 50 people and $50 million in sales. He said sales in the latest fiscal year surpassed $2 billion.

Izumi, Brown's replacement, has been with Toshiba Corp. since 1969. His experience includes seven years in Irvine as senior manager for U.S. semiconductor sales.

The management change comes as Toshiba America Electronic is poised to make a major shift in its assembly process, a plan that Brown designed.

In mid-June, Toshiba America Electronic Components will announce a greatly expanded relationship with Kingston Technology Co. in Fountain Valley. Under the new agreement, Kingston will assume responsibility for much of the unit's logistics and assembly processes in a new Kingston facility across the street from its current headquarters.

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