Personal computer maker
said late Wednesday that its president, Jeff Weitzen, would take over as chief executive, succeeding the company's founder, Ted Waitt.
Gateway said Waitt would continue as chairman of the San Diego-based company. The changes take effect Jan. 1.
"Weitzen will retain the title of president, continuing to run Gateway's worldwide operations as he has for the past two years, while Waitt, as chairman, will continue to be actively involved in the strategic direction of the company," Gateway said in a statement.
John Spelich, a company spokesman, gave no reason for the timing of the decision.
Analysts said they had expected Weitzen to succeed Waitt.
"It was assumed that Weitzen was absolutely being groomed as Ted Waitt's successor," said Lou Mazzucchelli, an analyst at
Gerard Klauer Mattison
, who rates Gateway a buy and does not have any underwriting interest in the company.
"He (Weitzen) has done a lot for the company," he added.
Weitzen, who joined the company in January 1998, was the main driving force behind successful initiatives such as the Your Ware purchase program. He's also credited with bringing in a strong management team, including Anil Arora, senior vice president in charge of marketing.
Gateway released the announcement after the stock market closed. The stock was down 15/16 at 65 13/16 in after-hours trading. The stock has tumbled recently in anticipation in the change in leadership.
"People don't like change, but Jeff Weitzen is a very talented executive and we would have expected him to take control of the company sooner rather than later," said Mark Specker, an analyst at
Soundview Technology Group
. He has a buy rating on Gateway. Soundview has not done any underwriting for the company.
Weitzen was executive vice president of the business markets division of
, where he worked for 18 years prior to joining Gateway, the number two direct marketer of personal computers in the U.S. after