Navarre Chooses New CEO to Grow Its Top Line

Richard S. Willis replaces former CEO Cary Deacon, who left in April when the board made several bold moves and determined that the company needed a new leader to help grow its revenue.

Navarre Corporation said Friday that its board of directors has appointed Richard S. Willis president and CEO.

Willis-who has served on the company's board since February-replaces former CEO Cary Deacon, who left in April when the board made several bold moves and determined that new leadership was needed in order to grow Navarre's top line. Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer J. Reid Porter has served as interim CEO since that time.

Willis, 51, brings with him more than 20 years of executive experience in retail, distribution, and publishing. He most recently served as the executive chairman of women's clothing retailer Charlotte Russe. Other companies on his resume include Baker & Taylor Corporation, Troll Communications, and Bell Sports. He also previously served as chief financial officer of Petersen Publishing, which he helped to take public.

“Richard has a strong track record of creating value for shareholders,” Tim Gentz, chair of the board's governance and nominating committee and its chairman-elect, said in a statement, adding: “He's been a successful executive in a number of challenging and varied situations and he's a great fit with each of the critical leadership competencies that we evaluated as part of our selection process.”

In addition to serving as CEO, Willis will remain on Navarre's board. According to Willis' employment agreement, which was disclosed in a Monday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, he'll get an annual salary of $450,000 and 700,000 shares of stock options and restricted stock awards.

In April, in addition to replacing Deacon-its CEO of four years-Navarre sold its FUNimation Entertainment unit for $24 million and shifted its business focus from entertainment media distribution to consumer electronic accessories and software publishing.

“The company went into the recession with a lot of debt, and we did a good job performing through the downturn,” Porter told Twin Cities Business at the time. “Now is the time for revenue growth, and the board felt new leadership was in order for that.”

Navarre-which reported $490.9 million for the fiscal year that ended in March-became debt-free as of March 31. Porter said in April that the company would grow through both organically and through strategic acquisitions.