Proto Labs names new CEO to succeed Cleveland

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 6, 2014 - 9:23 PM

Victoria Holt, most recently CEO at Spartech Corp., takes top job at the rapid-prototyping firm.

A CEO who last year turned around and sold another industrial company has been hired to succeed retiring Proto Labs CEO Brad Cleveland, who led the Internet-enabled, quick-turn manufacturer for 13 years.

Victoria M. Holt took over Thursday as Proto Lab’s chief executive.

Holt, 56, was CEO of Spartech Corp., a publicly held supplier of plastic sheeting and compounds used in bulletproof barriers and aircraft cabin windows. She engineered a two-year turnaround and 73 percent jump in operating earnings at that company, which led to Spartech’s sale to PolyOne Corp. for a rich premium to Spartech shareholders in early 2013, according to news reports.

Analysts and investors have considered Proto Labs a possible acquisition target by a larger industrial concern.

Proto Labs’ stock price, which closed up 2.76 percent to $77.89 per share Thursday, has ranged from $39.64 per share to $89.97 over the past year.

Proto Labs, Minnesota’s most-successful initial public offering of the last decade, went public in February 2012 at $16 per share.

Before Spartech, Holt was a senior vice president at PPG Industries, the big coatings and specialty products company.

“Vicki’s track record of leading companies with large and diverse operations while delivering profitable growth and shareholder value makes her an excellent choice to lead Proto Labs,” said Larry Lukis, the founder and chairman of Proto Labs. “Her energy, enthusiasm and management style fit well with our culture.’’

Holt will be unavailable for media interviews until after Proto Labs reports year-end 2013 earnings later in February.

Holt said in a prepared statement: “I truly understand and appreciate the unique value Proto Labs delivers to its customers.

“Proto Labs delivers this value with very impressive technology, operational excellence and a full array of services for design engineers. I am excited to … build upon the company’s market position and competitive advantages.’’

Cleveland, 54, considered himself the right guy to take the company to $160 million in revenue, but not the one who should try to take it to $1 billion. Cleveland, an entrepreneurial computer scientist, has left Proto Labs for a several-month break and expects to try another venture, likely involved in alternative energy.

He has sold most of his Proto Labs stake, about $75 million, to diversify his wealth in order to fund charitable initiatives and a family foundation. Under Cleveland, who borrowed $600,000 to invest when he joined the fledgling company with several employees, Proto Labs grew to more than $2 billion in shareholder value, employs 735 Minnesotans and others in several countries and is expected to report profits this year of about $1.45 per share on sales of more than $160 million.

Lukis said in a statement that Cleveland has ‘‘fantastic organizational and team-building skills [that] have made the company what it is today. The board has planned carefully for this leadership transition and we are confident that the company will continue its growth momentum under Vicki’s leadership.”

Maple Plain-based Proto Labs, whose sales are growing at a 20 percent-plus clip annually, has the potential to be a $1 billion revenue company, analyst have said. Proto Labs is an online, order-driven, quick-turnaround manufacturer of injection-molded custom parts for product development and short-run production.

It works with thousands of product developers around the world on everything from medical-products components to next-generation kayak paddles to wristwatch parts.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144

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