Acer sues former CEO Lanci for breach of contract

Former Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci is now working with Lenovo

Acer has sued its former CEO and President Gianfranco Lanci in Italian courts for allegedly violating a non-compete clause, the company said Tuesday.

Lanci was ousted as Acer's CEO in March 2011 after disagreements with the company's board on product strategy and in January joined Lenovo as a consultant to strengthen European operations.

Acer said in a statement that he likely breached a non-compete clause that was in his contract with the company when he left last year.

Lanci became Acer's CEO in 2008, and the company overtook Dell as the world's second-largest computer vendor during the third quarter of 2009, mainly benefiting from netbooks. However Acer's fortunes sunk as netbook shipments dropped and tablet shipments gained momentum. Analysts said Lanci's resignation reflected a difference of opinion in how aggressively Acer should shift its focus from consumer PCs and pursue mobile devices.

Acer in the past has thwarted Lenovo's expansion plans in Europe. Acer's acquisition of Gateway in 2007 derailed Lenovo's plans to acquire European PC vendor Packard Bell, which was ultimately acquired by Acer.

Lenovo was the fifth-largest PC vendor in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) in the fourth quarter last year, while Acer was the second largest, according to IDC. But on a worldwide basis, Lenovo is the second-largest PC vendor, while Acer is the third largest.

Lenovo hopes Lanci's past experience will help expand shipments of products, especially in Western Europe. PC shipments in EMEA fell by 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter last year, according to IDC.

Lenovo did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Acer's suit against Lanci.

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