While some analysts expect the company to be sold, other industry observers expect a closer integration between Sola International and American Optical, the company acquired by Sola 4 years ago, following the appointment one month ago of Jeremy Bishop as Sola's new CEO, replacing John Heine, who had announced his resignation in January. Bishop, 49, has served most recently as president of AO. He joined AO in 1990 as vice president of its European operations. The operations of AO and Sola have been kept separate until now because they operate in different segments of the market.

Bishop, who has over 30 years of experience in the optical industry at the retail and manufacturing levels, is credited for nearly doubling AO's earnings since the 1996 takeover, while raising revenues at an annual compound rate of more than 10 percent. With operations in 13 countries, AO had revenues of more than $110 million last year.

AO was kept as an independent division, with its own distribution and prescription services, within Sola's new global commercial group when Sola was reorganized last October into 4 global ?groups.? The 4 business units are the development group, the operations group (manufacturing, logistics, etc.), the commercial group (including marketing) and the support group (finance, information technology, etc.). The commercial and operations groups are subdivided into geographical regions.

Numerous management changes have already taken place in the various regions including Europe, as we have already reported. Since the resignation of Heine, who is Australian, there have been at least two other departures. John Protocny has resigned as Sola Optical's executive vice president of sales for North America, after 18 months with the company, to be replaced in effect by Matt Cevasco. Wayne Rockall has been named as vice president for the Australia, New Zealand and South Africa region, replacing Warrick Duthy who is going back into the wine and spirits business, citing family reasons.