De Luca, Guerrino
Guerrino De Luca
President and Chief Executive Officer of Logitech International
Born in September, 1952, in Lanciano, Italy; married Daniela (an artist); children: Ottavia, Chiara. Education: Earned degree in electrical engineering from the University of Rome.
Addresses: Home—San Francisco, CA. Office—Logitech Inc., 6505 Kaiser Dr., Fremont, CA 94555.
Engineer with Olivetti in its research and development division, 1977, and became director for its networking products division; joined Apple Computer, rose to director for European marketing and vice president of business marketing; president and chief executive officer, Claris Corporation (a division of Apple), 1995–97; executive vice president for marketing, Apple Computer, 1997; president and chief executive officer, Logitech International, 1998–.
Guerrino De Luca has guided Logitech International into one of the world's most successful makers of computer peripherals. As president and chief executive officer since 1998, De Luca has overseen the company's entry into the retail sector with well-timed launches of the newest mice, game controllers, digital pens, and even MP3 and Bluetooth wireless accessories. He credits his long stint with Apple Computer as key to helping Logitech become dominant in its market. "I learned a lot about products," he told Kim Girard in Chief Executive, "a lot about designing and ease of use and how to think of the customer, and the consumer and the user first."
Born in 1952, De Luca hails from Lanciano, a town near Rome, Italy. He attended the University of Rome, and after earning a degree in electrical engineering went to work for one of Italy's biggest companies, Olivetti. Founded as a manufacturer of typewriters early in the twentieth century, Olivetti was branching out into consumer electronics by the time De Luca joined it, including video display terminals and the first rudimentary computers that offered videotext services over telephone lines in the pre-Internet era to European consumers. He eventually rose to become director of Olivetti's networking products division before moving over to Apple Computer.
De Luca rose to head Apple's European marketing division before being made chief executive officer for Claris, Apple's independent software maker in 1995. By that time, Apple's once-impressive sales figures had slowed down, but under De Luca's management Claris did well and even entered the Top Ten rankings among the world's software companies. In 1997, when Apple chief executive of-ficer Gil Amelio shifted some of his executives in a reorganization plan designed to rescue Apple's still-plummeting sales and reputation, De Luca was put in charge of worldwide marketing. He was even predicted as a possible future CEO of Apple himself. But 1997 brought many other changes for the company, among them the return of one of its founders, Steve Jobs, and Amelio was soon ousted. Jobs became Apple's CEO, and with that De Luca resigned from the company. A year later, he candidly admitted to a reporter for a London newspaper that while he had immense respect for Jobs, whom he conceded "may be the greatest, most creative person on earth," he told Cliff Joseph in the Independent, "he's not a nice person to work with."
A year later, De Luca moved on to Logitech, which had been founded 17 years earlier in Switzerland, as president and chief executive officer. Up until this point, Logitech was a relatively unknown maker of mice and other computer peripherals. Its revenues relied on deals it struck with computer manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard and Dell to produce the mice that came along in the box with the PC hardware and monitor. De Luca, with his excellent track record in marketing strategies, was brought aboard to help establish the company's products on the consumer market by themselves. The advantages of this plan were twofold: Logitech products, if sold separately at retail, netted the company much higher profit margins than in contracts with computer manufacturers. Secondly, if the personal computer market slowed or even stalled, users were still likely to purchase the latest-technology mouse or other peripheral as a budget-conscious upgrade.
De Luca believed it crucial that Logitech seek out new technologies, and one of his first major scores at the company involved its acquisition of a webcam manufacturer, Connectix, for $25 million at the end of 1998. Logitech executives had originally hesitated over the deal, because they had been working on their own version of a webcam, but the decision proved lucrative in the end: During the next three years, Logitech sold $180 million worth of webcams, mostly to home-computer users. It was a segment of the market that had been largely ignored in favor of courting large corporate business, which proved uneasy with moving into the videoconferencing frontier.
De Luca moved forward with other new products, most of them priced under $100, such as speakers, microphones, gaming controllers for Sony Playstation 2, and a new wireless mouse and keyboard combination. Even he could sometimes err, he admitted to Investor's Business Daily writer Patrick Seitz, citing the wireless-peripheral package as one example of a time when Logitech nearly missed the boat. "Fresh from my marketing skills at Apple I said, 'People don't buy combination products. They buy the best mouse or the best keyboard.'" he told Seitz. "I was profoundly wrong."
De Luca has been credited with helping Logitech's financial performance surge ahead in the peripherals market. In 1999, the year after he became CEO, Logitech posted sales of $471 million; three years later, that figure had more than doubled, to $960 million. Its stock, traded on the Swiss Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ Global Select Market, was a favorite of analysts and investors alike, with the price of its share quadrupling since De Luca came on board. Furthermore, the strategy to enter the retail market had proved wise: There had indeed come a downturn in computer sales during the recession that began in 2001, but Logitech had done surprisingly well despite it, as home users opted to upgrade their mice or keyboard, or add new web-cam technology instead of replacing the entire desktop or notebook computer.
Perhaps recalling his time at Apple, De Luca has deliberately tried to cultivate a good working relationship with his staff at Logitech, which has offices in Fremont, California. He once issued a target goal to his sales force, and promised he would dye his hair pink if it were achieved. It was, and he did, turning up at a conference of investment bankers in Switzerland with fuchsia highlights. "It really tested my self-confidence," De Luca recalled in an interview with BusinessWeek. "But people thought: 'This guy comes from California, and even if we don't understand it, it must be OK.'" He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Daniela, who is an artist. They have two grown daughters.
BusinessWeek, February 13, 2002.
Chief Executive, July 2003, p. 42.
Independent (London, England), September 21, 1998, p. 14.
Investor's Business Daily, October 24, 2005, p. A7.
Time, December 2, 2002, p. 58.