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Hypertherm CEO, VP to Step Aside

Wednesday, September 03, 2014
Hanover — Forty-six years after developing a better way to cut metal, Hypertherm founder Dick Couch is stepping down as the company’s chief executive officer, he announced Tuesday.

The news marks a milestone for the growing company. Hypertherm, which opened a $35 million plant along Heater Road in Lebanon in 2011, has quadrupled in size over the past 13 years and now employs 1,300 workers in the Upper Valley.

Couch’s wife, Barbara, who joined her husband in overseeing the transfer of 100 percent of the company’s stock to its employees in January, will also step down from her position as vice president of corporate social responsibility.

Executives from inside the company will take on those roles, with a succession planned for Jan 1.

The Couches will remain in leadership positions on the board of directors, ensuring that the company’s culture will not change, Barbara Couch said Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the company released a statement on the leadership change.

“We don’t anticipate any major changes in the direction or values of the company,” she said.

Dick Couch will continue his role as executive chairman of the board and trustee of the company’s stock ownership plan. Barbara Couch will continue her role leading the board’s Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, and also as president of Hypertherm’s charitable foundation.

Company veteran Evan Smith, who was named Hypertherm’s president in 2012, will now also serve as the company’s CEO. Smith has been with the company for 22 years and was promoted to vice president and general manager in 2001.

Jenny Levy, who joined the company in 2004 and is the director of corporate social responsibility, will assume the role of vice president of corporate 

In a prepared statement, Dick Couch said Smith and Levy would ensure “ownership continuity.” He said he expected continued benefits for customers, employee-owners and the communities in which the company operates.

Hypertherm designs and builds cutting systems based on plasma, laser and water jet technologies. Its products are in use in many manufacturing sectors, including shipbuilding and auto repair.

The announcement continues the company’s practice of filling open leadership positions by promoting from within.

In early May, Hypertherm announced another leadership shift: the promotion of 18-year veteran Aaron Brandt as vice president of engineering.

Hidde van Hoeven, an employee with nine years of experience with the firm, was promoted to Brandt’s position, business team leader for mechanized plasma.

The executive change follows that of another venerable employee-owned company in the Upper Valley.

In June, King Arthur Flour CEO Steve Voigt stepped down, handing the reins to a four-person leadership team.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at or 603-727-3211.

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