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After rough run, Smart Tech CEO steps down

Nancy Knowlton is president and CEO of Calgary-based Smart Technologies, which created the world's first interactive white board in 1991.

Chris Bolin For The Globe and Mail/chris bolin The Globe and Mail

The chief executive officer that led SMART Technologies through its IPO is stepping down after a disastrous run as a public company.

Nancy Knowlton, a co-founder and current CEO of the electronic whiteboard maker, announced Tuesday that she is leaving her role as the company tries to revamp by focusing more on the corporate market.

Smart, which went public at $17 per share, now trades around $2.75.

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But while Ms. Knowlton is stepping aside, she will remain heavily tied to the company, as will her husband, David Martin, the other co-founder. Ms. Knowlton is taking on the newly created role of vice chair, and Mr. Martin will continue on in his role as chairman of the company's board of directors. Combined, the two also own 22 per cent of Smart's outstanding shares, according to the latest annual information form.

Smart's chief operating officer Tom Hodson has been named interim CEO, and the company hopes to appoint a new head later this year.

Smart ran into problems because U.S. school boards simply can't afford to invest in new technology right now. Until recently, education sales accounted for 90 per cent of the company's sales.

Of late, Smart has tried to switch gears by paying more attention to the business market, but the transition won't be easy.

Public shareholders aren't the only people that have been burned by Smart's downfall; private equity backer Apax Partners and Intel Corp. have also suffered. According to the annual information form, the two owners combined held 60 per cent of the company's shares.

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About the Author
Reporter and Streetwise columnist

Tim Kiladze is a business reporter with The Globe and Mail. Before crossing over to journalism, he worked in equity capital markets at National Bank Financial and in fixed-income sales and trading at RBC Dominion Securities. Tim graduated from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and also earned a Bachelor in Commerce in finance from McGill University. More

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