Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reilly Replaces Thomas in Cybergraphic Coup: Still a Shareholder, Co-Founder Thomas Starts His Own Firm

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Reilly Replaces Thomas in Cybergraphic Coup: Still a Shareholder, Co-Founder Thomas Starts His Own Firm

Article excerpt

The board of directors of Cybergraphic Systems, headquartered in South Melbourne, Australia, has ousted Les Thomas as chief executive.

Last month he resigned as managing director of the parent company and two weeks later was replaced as president of its U.S. arm, Cybergraphic Systems Inc. of Wakefield, Mass.

Senior vice president and chief financial officer Robert Brierley was named to replace Thomas as president and chief executive officer of the U.S. -subsidiary. Brierley served in financial management positions in the electronic components industry for 11 years before joining Cybergraphic two years ago. He said he has no stake in the company.

'Tyranny of distance'

Thomas, a New Zealander, and four other Australian engineers rounded Cybergraphic Systems five years ago. Since then, he has spent much of his time in North America refining the firm's computerized publishing systems and drumming up business at U.S. and Canadian newspapers. But in the last 18 months, Cybergraphic directors in Australia reportedly sought to wrest control of the parent company from him.

Earlier, Thomas had moved from New England to New York City, where he and staffers worked full time to get news and ad pagination up and running at the ill-fated sports daily The National. He stayed in New York, where he opened a business office for the company.

Thomas, now 43, said he is forming his own business in New York and remains a Cybergraphic shareholder and director.

Interviewed earlier this month, he said shareholders told him in May they wanted to sell the entire company.

"To their surprise," he said, "I found some interested parties...and then they [the directors] changed their minds."

At that point, Thomas continued, he made his own offer, for the U.S. company only, a bid the directors rejected.

The parent company had cut back its work force when it got out of manufacturing, and more recently, according to Thomas, the U.S. company has seen 25% of its staff laid off.

Brierley denied that figure and deferred further comment until completing discussions with employees, customers and prospects.

Thomas, Cybergraphic's founder and formerchief, wished the company well and said he expected its U.S. business to be showing systems in the years ahead.

He nevertheless called his departure a "great opportunity" to pursue business on his own and "not have to deal with these absentee landlords," in Australia.

"It's a tyranny of distance...socially, economically," he said.

'Codeless system'

Unencumbered by a non-compete agreement, Thomas said he is ready to go after the same market and his new company will have a competing product "well before Christmas."

Still, he added, "It's not nice to see five years' work gone down in a few months."

Working from his earlier ideas for fast prototyping and software production, Thomas said that it is a great burden to modify millions of lines of code to enhance an existing system. But beyond notions of fast prototyping, he added that by starting from scratch using existing tools and applications, a superior product can be created in far less time than in years past.

"We're probably talking about one one-thousandth the amount of code" ordinarily needed to prepare a publishing system, said Thomas, adding that Cybergraphic's products represent about 300 man-years of work. …

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