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Talk of the bay

A new executive outlook at Ocean Optics

Published June 21, 2004

For 15 years, Michael Morris, one of the founders and president of Ocean Optics in Dunedin, has pretty much been his own boss.

He wore jeans and a T-shirt to work. Avoided driving on Interstate 4 to the company's plant in Orlando whenever possible. And had a lot of fun suggesting novel - some might say oddball - uses for Ocean Optics' miniature spectrometers.

Today, the devices are used to measure everything from the amount of air in the top of potato chip bags to damage in copper pipes at a nuclear reactor. Ocean Optics' sales last year topped $23-million.

But Morris also weathered his share of financial crises as head of a growing technology company and had long been looking to make a change. That happened this month when the U.K.'s Halma Group bought Ocean Optics in a deal worth up to $50-million.

Morris will remain president of the business, and he said the deal means nothing but good things for employees and growth for the local operation. But he admits that being part of a giant public company meant some changes.

For one thing, he wore a suit for the first time in 10 years to sale negotiations in New York City.

And when his new boss at Halma suggested he make a visit to Ocean Optics' Orlando plant, Morris immediately hit the highway.

"I graciously said, "Yeah, boss,' " said Morris, one of four majority shareholders who made millions of dollars on the sale. "The people who work for me were laughing."

[Last modified June 18, 2004, 19:26:08]

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