Hindman steps down as Avatech chairman

BUSINESS DIGEST

February 06, 2007|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,Sun reporter

W. James Hindman, the founder of Jiffy Lube, is stepping down from his latest venture as chairman of local technology company Avatech Solutions Inc. after achieving his goal of helping to grow the company and bring it to profitability.

Hindman, a co-founder of Owings Mills-based Avatech, will remain on its board and executive committee. He joined the board nearly a decade ago and became chairman in November 2002 with profitability in mind, chief executive D.R. Scotty Walsh said.

"In those first couple of years when he was chairman we were struggling," Walsh said. "We closed some offices and we let a lot of people go and we borrowed money, and then in 2005 we were profitable. In [fiscal] 2006 we were profitable, and we're profitable again this year."

The company reported earnings of $2.2 million and revenue of $39.6 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2006.

Hindman's story is one of rags to riches, a poor boy who spent years in a children's home and became a millionaire by age 35. He founded Jiffy Lube in 1979 and expanded it to more than 1,000 franchises. Hindman was at one point worth more than $100 million on paper.

But Jiffy Lube hit financial troubles in the late 1980s, and Pennzoil Co. bought the chain in 1990. Hindman made $2.3 million on the deal, and went on to start Youth Services International Inc., which runs facilities for troubled youths. He took that company public in 1994. In 1998 Sarasota, Fla.-based Correctional Services acquired Youth Services International.

The 71-year-old Hindman said he was ready for Avatech Solutions to enter a new phase with new leadership. "I really felt that the company would benefit from new fresh ideas, Hindman said.

Avatech Solutions sells software for industries such as architecture, engineering and manufacturing. It also integrates software with worker training and technical support. The company has about 237 employees nationwide, including 48 at Owings Mills.

The company looked to its current board for a new chairman and agreed that Thom Waye would be a good fit. He could not be reached for comment.

Waye, managing partner and founder of New York City-based Sigma Capital Partners LLC and an Avatech Solutions board member since November, is succeeding Hindman as chairman effective immediately.

"In Thom Waye I think I found someone who not only said he wanted to be the chairman, but he put his money where his mouth is," Hindman said, adding that Sigma Opportunity Fund LLC, Sigma Capital Partners' affiliate fund, has invested more than $3 million in Avatech Solutions.

stacey.hirsh@baltsun.com

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