Harry C. Payne, who will leave his office as president of Williams College at the end of the week, was named to the board of directors of the information technology firm Excalibur Technologies on August 24.
Excalibur Technologies, a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: EXCA) based in Vienna, Va, is controlled by Herbert A. Allen ’62. In the spring of 1998, Allen pledged $20 million, the largest gift in the College’s history, for the construction of a new theater and dance center.
Concerning his connection to Allen, Payne said, “The fact that Allen & Co. is the largest shareholder is fully public, and obviously it has a connection to my appointment, as corporate boards often bring on persons whom they know, trust and value. I am honored by this trust.”
Payne emphasized that this position is not a full-time job and involves a commitment of about six one-day meetings per year. However, Payne added, “Directorships can become more time-consuming at times of opportunity or crisis, and one has an obligation to make oneself as available as possible at those times.”
Payne mentioned in the September 21 issue of the Record an interest in the Internet and high-end knowledge retrieval on the software side as fields that he might be interested in exploring.
“It has been my hope and intention to be involved in the director or advisor level of information technology companies and I’m really pleased by the appointment,” Payne said. “I hope to learn a lot and hope to give a lot.”
According to its business plan, Excalibur “designs, develops, markets and supports knowledge retrieval software products capable of supporting paper, text, image and video data. EXCA offers consulting, training, product maintenance and systems implementation services.”
Revenue for the company in the six months ending July 31 were $16,830,000 for 1999, up from $11,211,000 in 1998. Operating loss for the same six-month period narrowed to $1,745,000 in 1999 from $3,541,000 in 1998.
Donald R. Keough, Chairman of the Board at Excalibur, said, “we were thrilled to get Hank to serve on the board.” Keough said Payne brings “the perspective of an academician, a scholar and one who is in touch with young people.”
“Excalibur is part of the world of high technology, and Payne’s students are going to live in that world,” Keough said. “He brings a unique perspective, the perspective of one who is tuned into the thought of young people.”
According to Payne, “Simply, Excalibur is a very high-end knowledge company. It deals with interesting and exciting technology that allows one to search for and organize unstructured knowledge, information that is not in databases, and that has very large potential for industries including the education world.”
“Excalibur has great potential for companies or organizations that have large amounts of unstructured data and information, and has the artificial intelligence capacity to make use of it,” Payne said.
According to a statement filed with the Security and Exchange Commission in July, Allen & Company is Excalibur’s largest shareholder. Between Allen & Company, its officers and shareholders and persons who might deem to be related, ownership was about 27 percent of Excalibur’s common stock. This amount of ownership effectively gives Allen the power to control major decisions for the company, including the selection of members to the board.
As a director Payne will receive 25,000 stock options valued at 8 3/16 on August 25 as well as expenses for each board meeting. In addition, Payne will receive $5,000 for each board meeting up to a maximum of $20,000 a year.
While president at Williams, Payne served on the board of directors of several local non-profit institutions, including the Clark Art Institute, MassMoCA and the Williamstown Theater Festival.