PRG Rebrands Lighting Group In an attempt to address some confusion both internally and externally on its brand identity, Production Resource Group announced that, effective October 20, 2000, the companies in the PRG Lighting Group - Cinema Services, Light & Sound Design (LSD), Production Arts, Production Lighting Systems and Vanco Lighting Services - will come together under the name Fourth Phase. All of the companies except LSD will assume the name Fourth Phase; LSD will be called LSD/Fourth Phase. This new identity comes in tandem with new operational changes designed to allow account executives to focus fully on their clients with specialists providing operational support.

A play on three-phase, Fourth Phase refers to the four steps of the firm's evolution, from Harris Production Services, to the revolutionary development of the StageCommand automation system for Phantom of the Opera, the acquisition of numerous lighting firms under the PRG umbrella, and now the rebranding and refocusing of them under the one name. The PRG name and the integration it implies, he says, resonates mostly with top-level executives; the new division name is a brand name that designers looking for lighting only can identify with.

"The market has been confused," explains PRG chairman and CEO Jere Harris. "They want to know how this helps this industry. We are now at the point where we can deliver the best products and services at a competitive price, and, rather than let corporate initiatives from the East Coast drive the business, we can let the regions drive it themselves. And we are out of the mergers-and-acquisitions phase."

"Plus, our Lighting Group employees wanted to know that we're all working on one team, though we will preserve company names like Vanco and Cinema Services in some way as they are part of our heritage."

A national sales team has been established, under the direction of Bill Gallinghouse, senior VP of sales and marketing. Working with the local sales groups, this team ensures that clients can interact with any account executive they choose, regardless of the location of the project. Project coordinators in place at each location ensure the equipment is prepared for the project according to each client's individual requirements.

Paul Edwards, director of standards, has established a team to create a unified standard for equipment preparation, packaging and interoperability. In Atlanta, Bob Looney has become director of inventory management, with Jeff Bridges replacing him as general manager. Valerie Hovenden has departed LSD Nashville; Jeff Mateer, previously GM of Newbury Park, CA, replaces her and has also assumed the new position of GM of all LSD North American operations. Val Dauksts becomes GM of Newbury Park. Jeff Senkovich has moved from his operational responsibilities with the PRG Audio Group to assume the newly created role of COO of the Lighting/Audio Group. As COO of PRG, John Hovis oversees the operational aspects of the organization.

The Fourth Phase rebranding has also brought changes for all offices on the systems installation front. Systems project managers and salespeople are now located in New Jersey, Orlando, Las Vegas, Detroit and Los Angeles. Project work will be managed locally in these facilities, but will be supported by the central engineering, compliance and fabrication resources located in New Jersey, home of the original Production Arts Systems Group.

Harris spoke to ED about the lighting business beyond this strategic announcement. "Contrary to popular belief, this industry will never go back to the sole entrepreneur operation; the capital required makes a smaller operation impossible, as do the needs of the market. Trade shows, for example, used to be all PAR cans - now they want High End or Coemar lights. The cost to put a show out is considerably more today than it was just five years ago, when we were a conventional lights supplier with some automated fixtures; now, we're just the opposite, and you need employees with those skills."

Regarding his own role, "For the last few years I raised money and bought companies. Now I'm focusing on how to make the companies better, and what our products and services mean to our customers. I still run the company - despite the impression that there are `suits in the boardroom,' there really aren't any."

As to what perspective he's gained since embarking upon PRG, he jokes, "Maybe I'll apply this to the health care industry. Starting out, I would have had a better operating partner by my side for the integration and consolidation, someone who had more experience with larger companies than I had. And we tried putting people in roles that didn't really suit them. Now they're back to doing what they do best."