It was an off-the-cuff remark, but Robert Chartrand, president of Tandberg Data Inc., had no idea of the power of his words when he said, "Well, just ask the king to come over."
Chartrand and his Norwegian counterpart, Ralph Hoibakk, were talking over dinner a couple of months ago, planning the ribbon cutting for Tandberg's Anaheim manufacturing plant. Chartrand said he was joking when he suggested inviting the king, but Hoibakk responded, "Maybe not the king, but maybe the prince," Chartrand recalled in a recent interview.
And sure enough, the prince it is.
This morning, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Harald of Norway will be guest of honor when Tandberg, a Norwegian-owned company, dedicates its 32,000-square-foot building.
Chartrand's casual remark hit paydirt because Norway is eager to foster U.S. outlets for its high-technology industries and has declared 1985 "The Year of the Export." The visit puts the spotlight on Tandberg and its parent, Tandberg Data A/S, one of Norway's major electronics companies.
Prince Harald's visit, to be televised live to Norway, will begin a day and night of lavish celebration orchestrated by Robert Fisher, Newport Beach public-relations agent.
Spending Thousands "I've never spent money so quickly," said an enthusiastic but exhausted Fisher. He said Tandberg is spending "tens of thousands of dollars" on the prince's short stay.
During the last three weeks, Fisher said, he has ordered red carpets, borrowed Norwegian flags and hired a five-piece mariachi band and a string quartet to entertain at a black-tie dinner. Fisher is vice president of public relations for Lenac, Warford, Stone Inc.
Charged with finding an appropriate commemorative gift, Fisher turned to a Nieman-Marcus employee who helped him find a remote-controlled sailboat for the prince, who is an experienced yachtsman.
The Hotel Meridien Newport Beach, in a tizzy since its official opening black-tie bash Thursday night, raced to get ready for the prince.
"When a head of state is coming in, it's an incredible experience," said Kit Antrim, director of marketing at the hotel. "We've got all kinds of people working on this," he said.
First in Special Suite
The hotel has tried to think of everything to make the prince's visit perfect. It assigned 20 employees to the multitude of tasks. They've been learning the rules of protocol, polishing up front-desk manners and worrying about how to handle room-service orders for the prince's entourage of about six persons.
Prince Harald will be the first guest to occupy the hotel's opulent, five-room presidential suite.
The suite, which rents for the princely sum of $960 a day, has sweeping views of the ocean and mountains. It has upholstered walls, two bedrooms with canopied beds, a raised bathtub with Jacuzzi, a full dressing room and a 200-square-foot, tiled balcony. It is furnished with antiques and art from both Europe and America.
Amid all the glitter, the prince does have some business on his agenda. Following the ribbon cutting, he is to meet with several California business and political leaders at a luncheon to promote Norwegian exports.
Adding timeliness to Prince Harald's visit, Oslo-based Tandberg A/S is planning to go public this year, with a prospectus that boasts sales of almost $50 million last year.
Earlier this week, Tandberg's 80 American employees were nervous but enthusiastic about the prince's visit. Lynn Crandall, acting manufacturing manager, said he would try to maintain "business as usual." Production-line workers will show the prince and other guests how they make streaming tape drives--devices similar to cassette tapes--used to store computer data.
"We hope we will impress everyone," said Crandall, adding that he hoped no eager production employee would come to work in formal wear.
The new plant has the capacity to make 40,000 to 50,000 tape drives each year. Tandberg President Chartrand projects sales of $20 million to $24 million in the first full year of business.
Computer industry analysts say backup data-storage systems are becoming big business as sales of personal computers with greater storage capacities increase.
"We see growth rates of 35% to 45% a year through the late 1980s," said John Hoper, vice president of the peripherals group for Future Computing Inc., a Dallas-based marketing research company.
After the glow of the prince's visit wears off, getting a share of that growing market will be Tandberg Data's No. 1 priority.