Starkey Hearing Technologies has named a stepson of CEO Bill Austin as the company’s new president, nearly two years after the firings of the company’s previous president and several other executives.
Austin informed employees in a memo on Thursday that he was promoting stepson Brandon Sawalich “because he stepped up when needed.”
“After 23 years with Starkey, Brandon has proven to me that he is a trusted leader who Starkey can be proud of, and who shares my passion and commitment to better hearing, our employees, the industry and the people we serve,” Austin said in the memo.
The firings of Starkey’s former executive team preceded federal fraud charges against former President Jerry Ruzicka, as well as former Chief Financial Officer Scott Nelson and former human resources chief Larry Miller.
The men, who have denied wrongdoing, are accused of misappropriating $15 million in restricted Starkey stock, creating sham companies and/or illegally pocketing fake commissions, bonuses and loans.
A trial is scheduled to begin later this year on the federal charges. Lawsuits alleging wrongful termination are also making their way through the courts.
Eden Prairie-based Starkey is the largest hearing aid manufacturer in the United States with an estimated $800 million in annual revenue.
During the turmoil, Austin — known for his charitable galas — served as president and CEO. Austin will remain CEO of the company.
Sawalich, who was senior vice president of sales and marketing, was named senior vice president a little over a year ago.
“I am humbled by the extraordinary honor to lead this wonderful organization and talented team,” said Sawalich in a statement. “I am eager to continue building on Bill’s successful history and am excited about our direction and unlimited potential.”