Hart Transplant

New CEO taps experience at Sprint, Excite@Home to get Pinnacle on track

Once again, Pinnacle has looked beyond the traditional broadcast ranks to find a chairman and CEO. Patti S. Hart, who has held top executive positions at Sprint, Telocity and Excite@Home, will parlay her skills at driving a single business to two markets: consumer and professional.

"Her management experience is deep, and she has a successful track record of managing large organizations through tough transitions," says interim Chairman and CEO Chuck Vaughan. "In short, she is just right to return Pinnacle to a much higher level of performance."

Hart fills the void left when Kim J. Fennell resigned last November, following disappointing quarterly earnings. The company's troubles were related primarily to the consumer division. George Blinn, president of Pinnacle's business and consumer division, has since left the company, and a hunt is under way for his successor. "Frankly, he was a little tired and needed a rest," says Vaughan. "We were just happy he stayed with us and built the business he did."

Hart believes her experience at consumer-related companies will help shape Pinnacle's direction. She also says her tenure at Sprint, where she served as president and COO of its Long Distance Division, will prove particularly useful. "I learned to balance consumer and professional businesses across a single platform and leverage that platform across broad markets so we could compete where we otherwise couldn't."

The stage is set at Pinnacle to realize her goals.

Hart points to market reach, products, distributors, and employees as critical assets that need to share vision and processes. "The company has done a terrific job of repositioning itself each time it has made an acquisition," she explains.

Despite its success in repositioning, the acquisitions have led to some fragmentation of product lines and corporate structure. Pinnacle has grown into a global company with broad product lines: nonlinear editing, graphics, and server products. Hart hopes to streamline some of those lines to give the company a stronger focus.

"It's a very sexy business, and everything is interesting," she says. "But it's now moving beyond what is interesting to what is important and essential. We need to choose lead products and ride them a bit harder, as opposed to fragmenting energy across multiple products."

Hart's most recent professional position was as chairman and CEO of Excite@Home. She didn't reign during its halcyon days but in the final 100-day countdown to bankruptcy. But she's proud of her accomplishments: The company managed to change over its broadband subscribers to a new service provider without losing a customer. And it kept bond holders happy.

She can succeed in a crisis. Pinnacle hopes now she can soar.