IRobot Co-Founder Greiner Resigns as Chair of Board

10/22/08Follow @bbuderi

Updated Oct. 22, 5 pm with comment from company: IRobot co-founder Helen Greiner, who has been instrumental in guiding the company since its inception in 1990 and who has served as a leading voice on robotics innovation worldwide, has resigned as chairman of the company’s board and will be replaced by her fellow co-founder and CEO Colin Angle, the company announced this afternoon.

“Helen will continue to serve on iRobot’s board of directors as a non-employee director while pursuing other interests and opportunities within the robot industry,” the company said in a statement.

For her part, Greiner was quoted in the short press release as saying: “I will remain close to the company through my work on the board,” said Greiner. “I am excited about where the robot industry is going and how I can help shape the future through individual endeavors, work with the Robotics Technology Consortium, Massachusetts Robotics Cluster and the various boards on which I serve.”

We are trying to reach Greiner for direct comment and will update this story as more is learned.

Update 2: I just spoke with Nancy Dussault-Smith, Vice President, Marketing Communications, for iRobot. She was vague on the details, and Greiner herself was not made available for the call–so read into that what you will. However, she stressed that Greiner, who took over as chairman in 2004, and the company both agreed on the move.

She also stressed that Greiner will not only remain a director of the company, but that she will continue to “be a passionate advocate of the industry…Helen’s in a good place. She’s always been someone who’s been entrepreneurial. She’s a robot person through and through, and she’s going to stay in the robot business.”

Dussault-Smith did confirm, however, that as chairman Greiner was a full-time employee of the firm who came into the office daily. This is no longer the case.

Update 2: It’s no secret that iRobot has encountered some bumps in the road and made some key personnel changes recently, even as it has made several acquisitions, the most recent of which was its $10 million purchase of unmanned underwater vehicle firm Nekton Research last month: Greiner told me the story of the acquisition here. In May, the company announced the departure of Sandra B. Lawrence, head of its Home Robots Division. In September, as we reported in detail, co-founder and CTO Rod Brooks left to start his own company, Heartland Robotics, though, like Greiner, he remains a director.

And despite winning a series of military contracts, the company has been facing ongoing financial losses. Its third quarter earnings, which were also reported today, showed strong improvement. The firm announced that revenue for the period grew nearly 45 percent to $92.4 million, versus $63.8 million for the same period last year, while net income rose to $3.9 million, compared with a loss of $1.4 million for the third quarter of 2007. However, the firm also reports a net loss for the first nine months of the year, although the loss is lower than for the same period of last year ($0.19 per share vs. $0.48 per share).

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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  • RACHEL CLARKE

    With persistence and a lot of luck, I have acquired a irobot scooba 5900. The remarkable thing is that I live in the UK.

    As a disabled dog owner, and mother of two creative boys, one producing art, sculpture and the other a singer songwriter, with constant stream of musicians coming and going, the house has seemed like an Arts Factory. Add to this that all three boys, if my husband included; love to cook, I am the ideal customer for irobot’s products.

    People in Europe are totally unaware of irobots,and the knowledge that they too could release them from the tyranny of the hardest household chores. I was until I spotted them a month ago on Youtube.

    Having bought my scooba from a flight attendant, who bought his in the USA, I am not eligible for a warrantee, and the cleaning fluid is extortionate, but my life is transformed with it. I know I am very lucky to have it, because these machines are rare as hen’s teeth.

    Reading that the irobot’s Home Division is running at a loss, and the massive discounting of machines, I am bewildered to comprehend why the European market has been virtually ignored.
    Instead of fumbling about trying to decide whether or not to open irobot shops in Malls, why not select a production/distribution partner in Europe, and just relax back and watch the profit ramp up.

    RC in UK

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