Jack Kline didn’t think much about making Christie CEO the final stop of his career when he took a friend’s suggestion and joined the sales team 40 years ago, being hired by Tom Christie, the son of founder S.L. Christie.
Now that it’s happened, though, Kline is comfortable with his decision to hand control of the company over to CFO Kazuhisa Kamiyama and COO Zoran Veselic to kick off the company’s next fiscal year April 1.
Kamiyama will become Christie CEO and chairman while Veselic will add president to his COO duties in a transition Kline admits wasn’t an easy decision but was necessary for himself and the future of the company.
“It’s been an incredible 40 years,” says Jack Kline, 68, who’ll serve as executive advisor to the CEO for a year after his retirement takes effect. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many great people and usher in a change in technology. That’s going to continue for Christie.
“I felt I’ve done enough. The company is on a very solid path and it needs another vision for the next 40 years. It’s time for someone with more energy and different views. We need to be moving as fast or faster than the technology,” he says.
His Biggest Accomplishment as Christie CEO
Kline says his biggest accomplishment was taking two struggling companies—Christie and Electrohome Projection Systems—and combining them into a single entity 20 years ago.
“I was able to merge them together and change the world,” says Kline. “It changed how people view movies and changed the livelihood of so many people and their families.”
Jack Kline joined Christie in the late 1979 as national sales representative because “I’d always liked the movies” and Christie was well-known for its projectors. He was promoted to VP of sales and marketing in 1988, named executive VP and COO in 1997 and appointed president and COO in 1999.
In 2014, he assumed the role of chairman, president and CEO of all of Christie’s operating companies, overseeing about 1,400 employees worldwide.
“There was something about the company and the culture [that kept me here 40 years],” he says. “I was intrigued with the technology and what we could become. I was amazed at the things we could do. The faster we moved, the more energized I got.”
Christie’s New Leadership Team
Kline says the reality of his departure “probably still hasn’t set in yet,” but he knows why some people are so surprised by his announcement. He calls his decision “the right thing at the right time and isn’t going to be talked out of it at this point.
“For many people, I was the face of Christie,” he says. “It’s not just a job. It’s part of your life. Part of the transition is for me to extricate myself from the day-to-day business. You have to be comfortable with the decisions you make and you need to be definitive.
“Christie was so much a part of me, but I’m really in an advisory role now. It’s not appropriate for me to be making decisions that will affect the future of the company. I can help Kazu and Zoran with my insight, then they can decide if that’s appropriate,” says Kline.
Kamiyama brings along a strong financial background, says Kline, and will likely oversee a time when Christie is more involved in joint ventures and potential acquisitions.
Jack Kline says his decision was part of a process that started about three years ago with Christie dividing into three distinct business units—cinema, enterprise/entertainment and content management and processing (CMP)—and divesting the “non-core” parts of the business.
“This isn’t something that just happened,” says Kline. “I wanted to have a succession plan and to leave the company in a more nimble position.” And, while he’s comfortable the new leaders of the company will keep Christie thriving, “it’s very difficult to walk away from something that’s been a part of my life for four decades.”
Jack Kline’s Future
Kline expects to have more time for golfing, skiing and boating once he steps away from his Christie responsibilities. He also expects he and his wife of 46 years, Sarah, to visit their daughters Amanda and Robyn in Colorado and Connecticut, respectively, and more bonding time with their grandchildren, Alexis and Michael.
Jack Kline is a member of various industry organizations, including the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE), the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers, and the International Cinema Technology Association (ICTA). He is also actively involved with numerous charities, including the Lollipop Theater Network, the National Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) Society, Rise Against Hunger, Orange County Business Leadership Committee, and Variety – The Children’s Charity of the United States.
He hasn’t stopped thinking about his Christie duties just yet, though.
“We’re at an amazing point in technology right now,” he says, pointing to the debut of MicroTiles LED at ISE 2019 along with Crimson laser phosphor projectors and Christie Mystique. “People are naturally drawn to our capabilities and our brand.
“How can I change integrators’ lives? What does the end user need? If I can find that, I can understand where we need to be heading,” says Kline.