LOS ANGELES -- In a surprise turnabout, the Video Software Dealers Association, Encino, Calif., named an acting president and chief executive officer to run the trade group now following the resignation of Jeffrey Eves.
To the enthusiastic applause of those gathered for the VSDA's Regional Leaders Conference here, Jan. 22 to 24, Bo Andersen, the group's senior vice president and general counsel, was named acting president and CEO. Previously, it had been decided that Eves would run the association until his departure April 1, but at the meeting the board decided that his lame-duck status would not allow him to do so effectively.
"We've got some other projects that [Eves] will be working on in that time," said Mark Vrieling, chairman of the association's board of directors and owner of Rain City Video in Seattle. "He's just not involved in the day-do-day activities," he said.
In a breakfast speech, Vrieling commented, "Sometimes you need different jockeys for different races."
Many at the conference were interested in seeing the popular Andersen put his hat in the ring for the permanent job, but he was noncommittal. "Frankly, I need to think about it," he said.
"I earnestly appreciate all the confidence that the board has expressed in me. I will do all that I can on an interim basis to make VSDA all that it can be," Andersen said. The VSDA is the leading trade association for the video industry and includes many supermarkets in its membership.
The committee seeking a permanent replacement for Eves met for the first time during the conference and started selecting an executive search firm. Many on the board hope to have the new president on board by April 1, when Eves officially departs. "We do realize that for everyone concerned, we want to make a permanent decision as soon as possible. But let's allow the experts to help us," said Vrieling.
Vrieling told SN that the board has expressed a preference for someone with video industry experience, and ideally someone sensitive to retailer issues. With all the mergers in the industry recently, there are a number of former studio executives who fit that profile, industry observers noted.
During the meeting, Eves gave what turned out to be his last speech before the association. He reflected on his five years running the association and having to build a staff from scratch upon taking the job, which coincided with the VSDA's move from New Jersey to California. "It was the organizational equivalent of zero-based budgeting," he said.
Eves resigned earlier this month after withstanding a barrage of criticism that he was not doing enough to help the association's core constituency of independent retailers, who are having trouble competing with the large specialty retailers.
"What an honor and what a pleasure it has been for me to be able to serve as president of VSDA for the last five years," he said, praising the organization's staff. "It's time for me to leave now and it is time for some new beginnings for your organization," he said.
Vrieling also addressed the conference, quoting the mission statement that was recently adopted by the board: "The mission of the VSDA is to protect, promote and to provide a forum for all those engaged in the rental and sale of packaged home-video entertainment."
He also outlined some of the official objectives of the association, followed by his personal objectives. Among the official goals are industry promotion, member services, government affairs, training, and research and information.
Vrieling listed three personal objectives. "One is what is called the 'level playing field.' What that means is being able to get products at a price that is competitive with the large chains and in a way that is profitable for us." But he said he is more concerned with profit than he is with price.
Secondly, video retailers need more research data and education. "We plan on significantly upgrading the level of the information we are putting out and, on the Web site, adding a ton of information," he said. The VSDA already has much of that information, but consolidating it on the Web site will allow all members ready access to it, he said. "So when someone has a particular problem, they've got a reference guide that is targeted at retailers, especially independent retailers," Vrieling said.
Thirdly, the VSDA has a big job to do in marketing. "We want to at least get it started. We are going to start with tools for independent retailers," such as adding a digital art section to the Web site that will include advertising materials, said Vrieling.
Supermarkets will benefit from the research being done on the new rental buying programs by Mars & Co., San Francisco, said Vrieling. "It looks like the supermarkets need more copies, but with the current splits that they are getting, they can't afford to do it and still make a profit. We want to go back to the studios and propose ways that we can all make more money," he said.
No one, including the studios, has good information on how all the buying programs are working, Vrieling said. "Mars will provide the statistical models and statistics to bring to the studios. It's time we got accurate with this stuff," he said.