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Atomos fires CEO for refusing to live in Melbourne

Melbourne-based video monitor recorder manufacturer, Atomos, has replaced its recently-appointed CEO, Estelle McGechie, after she refused to move to Melbourne from the US.

The Atomos Shinobi 7″ 4K HDMI/SDI Monitor.

Atomos designs ‘easy to use, cutting-edge 4K and HD Apple ProRes monitor-recorders’ that connect with cameras, from mirrorless full-frames to high-end cine gear. The monitors allow videographers to bypass ‘compression and recording limitations’, with nine on-camera monitor products available.

Like cine camera innovator, BlackMagic, Atomos is a homegrown camera tech success story. Founded in 2010, Atomos has grown to have offices in the US, UK, Germany, China and Japan. In December 2018, Atomos completed an Initial Public Offering (IPO) to list on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) after generating $35.6 million in revenue for the 2018 financial year. It trades under the ticker AMS.

As a publicly-traded company, Atomos is required to make price-sensitive announcements, such as changes to its Board of Directors. With her appointment as recent as September 2021, its reasonable for Atomos to inform shareholders why McGechie is on the way out so soon.

Estelle McGechie.

McGechie (right) is Australian but has built a successful career in corporate America since the early 2000s, working mostly in the tech sector for the likes of Apple, Disney, and Logitech. Before her appointment as Atomos CEO, she was the vice president of marketing for Frame.io, a video sharing platform acquired by Adobe.

Back when McGechie was appointed CEO it was reported she would return to Melbourne. Atomos also highlights in the April 14 announcement that it ‘always indicated that it requires the CEO to be based in its Melbourne headquarters’. From a business leadership perspective, having a CEO present at the headquarters makes sense.

While re-locating to Melbourne isn’t exactly the equivalent of a hardship posting to an distant third world colony, it’s far from the American tech hubs. And the city’s reputation as Australia’s trendy bohemian capital has taken a hit, after being dubbed the world’s most locked-down city. But now emerging from prolonged lockdowns, it ain’t now that bad, is it?

Perhaps McGechie reconsidered uprooting her life in the US with this in mind, and attempted to re-negotiate her employment terms by insisting the leadership role could be performed from abroad. Board meetings via video link aren’t ideal, but also aren’t out of the ordinary these days.

Office work nicely adjusted to working off-site, with Covid-19 restrictions bringing forth a ‘working from home’ revolution. But let’s not pretend that working from home results in the same productivity levels as being in a living and breathing work environment. This lifestyle arrangement may be better suited for the cube-dwelling office monkeys, rather than upper management of a publicly-traded company who are expected to show leadership qualities.

Whatever the reason, McGechie refused to re-locate, forcing Atomos to terminate the CEO. It’s far from standard practice and Atomos share price took a big hit, falling over 13 percent in a day from 0.86 to 0.74 cents.

On the topic of Atomos’ financial performance, it’s actually a company that makes money! The 21 half-yearly results posted a $14.7 million gross profit, with a record revenue of $32.8 million despite the impact of Covid-19.

Atomos Chief Technology Officer and founding employee, Trevor Elbourne, is now the interim CEO, willingly working from headquarters in drab Melbourne.

Here’s how non-executive chair, Christ Tait, tried to spin it in the announcement.

‘I would like to thank Estelle for her efforts at Atomos and on behalf of the Board wish her the best in her future endeavours,’ he said. ‘Trevor is a logical and highly capable appointment as interim CEO given his intimate knowledge of the products and technology that have made Atomos one of the global leaders in video technology today. As the Company embarks on an exciting expansion of our product line-up, the Board is confident Trevor will bring his deep experience in technology innovation to ensure our products continue to meet the changing needs of our growing customer base.’

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