Industry Veteran Elias Joins Akai As Chairman

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Harry Elias, who retired as honorable chairman of JVC Company of America after 37-years December 31, marked a quick return to the CE industry at International CES, here, as chairman of Akai Product Holdings USA, LLC.

At the same time, Gary Lafferty, who has been Akai's chief operating officer, has been promoted to president and CEO. He will continue to develop Akai's go-to-market strategy which has gained a foothold for its television lines in Circuit City and Costco, among others.

Both executives met with retailers and the media during CES.

Elias will bring his extensive experience as an American working for the Japanese company to the young organization, the company said. He is well known throughout the industry for his extensive retailer relationships and his long experience in launching new products and technologies.

“The dealers don't need another promotional line,” Elias told TWICE. “We will give them something different. As the saying goes, 'If you give [dealers] the opportunity to make the profit that they deserve, then you've got a chance.' The key is how you set up your marketing and distribution.”

Elias was named JVC's honorable chairman in March 2003 after stepping down as executive VP/chief operating officer. He was named executive VP in 1990 and added the chief operating officer title in 1995. In addition to his duties with JVC, Elias was past chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) video division and was a CEA board member.

Lafferty said he and Elias would seek to grow the distribution of the Akai brand, selling high-value products at aggressive price points. The company's lines include HD plasmas, DLP televisions and a return for the brand to audio components. (See story on Akai's audio products, p. 36.)

“I am very excited, proud and look forward to working with Harry Elias on the opportunities ahead of us,” said Lafferty, who formerly helped lead Philips' new sales direction. “Today everyone should be able to afford technology. It's not about how much we can extract, but rather how much more technology can we deliver for the price.”

Masukichi Akai founded the Akai brand in 1929, initially as a manufacturer of radio components. Akai first left the U.S. market in the 1980s and has had various majority equity partners since, including Semi-Tech Global, which also owned at the time the Sansui and Singer brands. Semi-Tech sold Akai and Sansui to Grande Group of Hong Kong, which also owns the Nakamichi brand. Grande Group is part owner of Akai Product Holdings USA. Akai Product Holdings USA is the exclusive U.S. sales and distribution company for all Akai consumer electronics merchandise.


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