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By Julian Nettlefold

BATTLESPACE is delighted to announce that Earl Lewis CEO of FLIR SYSTEMS Inc. has been voted as our BATTLESPACE Businessman of the Year for 2010. In a close fought contest, Earl won more votes than Andy Hove Executive Vice President and President, Defense, Oshkosh Corporation.

FLIR’s growth has continued apace since Earl arrived at FLIR in 2000. Just prior to AUSA National in October, FLIR announced financial results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2010. Revenue was $332.5m, up 16% compared to third quarter 2009 revenue of $285.6m. Operating income in the third quarter was $85.8m, compared to $89.3m in the third quarter of 2009. Third quarter 2010 net income was $63.0 m, or $0.39 per diluted share, compared with net income of $60.0m, or $0.38 per diluted share in the third quarter a year ago. Cash provided by operations in the third quarter was $85.1m. During the third quarter, Raymarine contributed $36.9m of revenue and $1.0 m of operating income. Corporate expenses were impacted by $2.5m in costs associated with the acquisition of ICx Technologies.

From the small kid on the block, FLIR Systems is now setting international standards for IR technology; you could call the Company the Microsoft of the InfraRed world.

BATTLESPACE first met Earl Lewis in 2007.

“Since we last interviewed you the momentum of FLIR appears unstoppable?”

“Yes, as you know, we have now had ten years of growth, the Company was recently named as the 6th Best Company of the Decade by Standard & Poors and 1st for technology.”

This is a long way from the beginnings of the Company which Earl Lewis joined in 2000 and subsequently turned around. Founded in 1978, FLIR SYSTEMS has corporate offices in Portland, Headquarters, Oregon, Boston, Massachusetts, Stockholm, Sweden and West Malling, Kent, UK. FLIR is publicly traded on the NASDAQ under the Symbol (FLIR). The Company has two divisions: Government Systems and Commercial Vision Systems.

“How did you come to take over the reins at FLIR?”

“I specialised in buying companies in trouble, I bought Fisons Scientific and Thermo which I ran in the U.K in 1977. Thermo then bought Spectragraphics, which traded on the Swedish Stock Exchange and which owned 28% of FLIR. I left Thermo in 2000 to run FLIR. At that time, FLIR had solid products but had reached a crisis stage in its business model and needed new leadership.”

On January 1, 2009, FLIR was added to the S&P 500 stock index, replacing National City Corporation. FLIR was named as the Northwest’s top company by the Seattle Times in 2009, marking the third time the company was at the top (2002 and 2003).
They sold off a small business within Extech, who made printers, in December 2009 and bought security hardware maker Directed Perception that month for $20 million. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.12 ISSUE 02, 07 January 2010).

“When I took the reins at FLIR, the Company was in poor shape with a turnover of $150m. We installed new management and systems, these changes are now being seen in increased revenues, profits and order backlog. On top of poor performance we were also saddled with a number of shareholder lawsuits which resulted in the Company almost being de-listed. The market cap was $70m then and is now $4bn, achieved in ten years. Obviously this turmoil brought low morale in the Company so we brought in a whole new management team and a new ethos which allowed people to enjoy what they are doing and be rewarded accordingly. We are masters of our own destiny, controlling the Company from within with little use of outside consultants. The other secret of our success has been our ability to contain costs and utilise technology developed in-house for the civil markets into the military. We are the largest producer of IR detectors in the world and this ability has allowed us to be very cost competitive in the military m

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