EDEN PRAIRIE, MINNESOTA — The fifth largest hearing aid manufacturer in the world, Starkey Hearing Technologies, has terminated the employment of its president and three of the company’s top executives. All four executives were abruptly terminated, say sources, including Jerry Ruzicka-President, Scott Nelson- CFO, Keith Guggenberger- Senior VP of Operations, and Larry Miller- Senior VP of Human Resources.
By Wednesday afternoon, the names of the executives had been removed from the company’s website.
Starkey, a privately held company, employs approximately 3,600 people, most of them in their Eden Prairie, MN headquarters. It is the largest US manufacturer of hearing aids.
What’s Happening at Starkey?
The true nature of the abrupt terminations are still unknown and according to statements by the company it is part of an “ongoing investigation”. However, two sources close to the company, and willing to speak off the record, cited a long-standing rivalry between Ruzicka and Brandon Sawalich, Sr. VP of Sales, Marketing & Customer Relations, who also happens to be Starkey founder Bill Austin’s stepson.
According to the sources, small cliques of executives who are loyal to each camp have formed around Ruzicka and Sawalich. They speculate that perhaps Sawalich may have forced Ruzicka (who has been rumored to retire within the year) and the three other executives from their positions with, presumably, the tacit approval of Mr. Austin.
Ironically, more than 20 years ago, it was rumored that Ruzicka assumed his position in the company in a similar manner when Mike Jones (who later ran Phonak US) and other top executives were abruptly ousted from their positions.
Adding further intrigue to the shocking developments, unconfirmed reports have suggested that local authorities were involved in escorting the executives out of the building and collecting information from their offices as part of an on-going investigation.
Minnesota Public Radio reports that neither the Eden Prairie Police Department, nor the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, have an open investigation into Starkey or the former executives.
*Hearing News Watch is continuing to following this story. For an update, please see: Latest Update on the Starkey Imbroglio, and FBI, IRS Raid Home of Former Starkey President Jerry Ruzicka.