There are some new faces at LeapFrogEnterprises
The new executive appointments come from a diverse range of companies -- and that's probably the point. LeapFrog may have been a pioneer in kid-friendly learning gadgetry, but it's now in a crowded category and needs to start thinking outside of the Leapster box.
Who are the three new faces?
- Steve Anderson is the new vice president of software engineering. His background includes work at Stock Advisor favorite Electronic Arts
(NASDAQ:ERTS)and cell-phone games provider Mforma.
- Jeff Grant steps in as vice president of Web products. It's a new position at LeapFrog and indicates that the company sees a future in cyberspace. Grant came from Orbitz, which just happens to be where the new CEO came from.
- Hilda West joins the company as senior vice president of human resources.
If we read into the hiring of Anderson and Grant, it seems as if LeapFrog is ready to pander to the older and more Web-savvy kids. This is a strategy that backfired on the company with last year's Fly pentop computer. The clever, computerized writing tool isn't exactly dead, but I've seen some pretty steep markdowns this holiday season, and this is the kind of product that is either an immediate hit or a wash. Being a niche product isn't enough.
But speaking of Fly, what's the deal with having two key executives from Orbitz on board? Jeffrey Katz has been CEO of LeapFrog since this summer (so we can give him a quarter or two of immunity before holding him accountable for the malaise at LeapFrog), and now we have Grant. I can't make the connection between selling airline tickets online and moving Leapster add-ons at the retail level. Former CEO Tom Kalinske made a more logical leap to LeapFrog from Sega.
However, LeapFrog is in a rut, and it may be something as unconventional as tapping a CEO with aviation experience, a Web guru from the travel site realm, and a software engineer that excelled in leisurely pursuits for older players that combine to give this sad tale a happy ending.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does relish the way his youngest son takes to his LeapPad. However, he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.