Packard Bell Co-Founder Buys AST Brand Name

Packard Bell Co-Founder Buys AST Brand Name

You're likely to be hearing the name "AST" a lot more in the future if Beny Alagem has anything to do with it.

Alagem, the co-founder and former chairman and chief executive officer of Packard Bell NEC, has bought up the AST brand name along with an exclusive license to that company's intellectual property. The news was announced by AST Research, a U.S. subsidiary of South Korean electronics company Samsung Electronics, in a release issued late yesterday.

As for AST, in return for selling its brand name and intellectual property, the Samsung subsidiary will receive a minority stake in a newly formed company -- AST Computers, the statement said. This means that AST parent Samsung will become an indirect strategic partner to the new venture.

Based on the Internet, AST Computers will aim to provide computer systems and innovative products to small- and medium-sized corporate customers along with the home computer market, said Alagem in a statement.

According to a report in today's Wall Street Journal, Alagem is considering what other AST assets he wants to acquire -- these include staff and factory equipment. He will effectively be buying the AST Computer unit, the report added.

Alagem resigned as chairman, CEO and president of Packard Bell NEC in July of last year over differences with company shareholders NEC and Group Bull.

He co-founded Packard Bell in 1986. Although the company grew from a start-up to become a multibillion dollar player in the home PC market, its fortunes have waned in recent years and Alagem was criticised by NEC, an investor in Packard Bell since 1995, for failing to turn the company's finances around.

AST Research's fortunes have also been fairly troubled, despite becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung in August 1997. Five years ago, analysts positioned AST as the fifth-largest PC maker in the world, but the company was bedevilled with products that were late to market and had problems dealing with the purchase of Tandy's PC business. AST Far East last April announced it was changing its focus away from its traditional desktop PC business to concentrate more on its servers and notebooks instead.

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