Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Controversial Diebold CEO resigns

Yesterday Wally O'Dell, chairman and CEO of Diebold, Inc., announced he is resigning effective immediately. This news comes at a time when Diebold's prospects for future sales of voting machines in California are up in the air pending the state's certification of its TSx electronic voting machine. Another blow against the company came last week, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued North Carolina for certifying voting equipment from Diebold and other manufacturers that failed to meet state certification requirements.

Excerpts from Dave Scott's article in today's Akron Beacon Journal are featured below.


Controversial Diebold Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Wally O'Dell resigned Monday, only a few days after meeting with the company's board.

A company statement cited personal reasons for the resignation, which took effect immediately.

Thomas W. Swidarski, a rising star in the company recently put in charge of an important restructuring, was named O'Dell's successor. John N. Lauer was named nonexecutive chairman.

Diebold's stock has fallen out of favor as it has dealt with poor results from its voting machine business and disappointing cost-cutting efforts in the automated teller machine division.

Monday's announcement came after the market closed with Diebold shares up 11 cents to $37.73, but down 32.3 percent for the year. The shares reached a high of $57.81 earlier this year.

``The board of directors and Wally mutually agreed that his decision to resign at this time for personal reasons was in the best interest of all parties,'' Lauer said in a news release issued after markets closed Monday.

O'Dell, 60, had been with Diebold since 1999. He was not quoted in the release and was not available for comment. The company did not elaborate on the ``personal reasons.''


On Monday, Swidarski, 46, also was named to the board of directors.

``I will have more to report on our progress and plans for 2006 and beyond during our fourth-quarter and year-end conference call with investors in January,'' Swidarski said in the release. He was unavailable for additional comment.


Swidarski joined Diebold in 1996. He held a variety of banking positions before that, including a stint as a senior executive of PNC Bank.

Green-based Diebold went into business in 1859 making bank vaults. Most of its sales these days come from automated teller machines. But much of the attention the company has received recently came from its relatively new business of making election machines.

O'Dell gained national attention when he invited people to a fund-raiser for George Bush with a 2003 letter stating he planned to help ``Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.''

Critics howled that the maker of voting machines should not be involved in partisan politics. The company has since forbidden its top executives from making political contributions.

The company has been disappointed as legal and technical problems and political issues have prevented boards of election from buying election machines as quickly as first anticipated. The company also announced in October that Hurricane Katrina slowed the sale of ATMs to some Gulf Coast states.

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