Diebold Inc. has promoted Gregg A. Searle to president and chief operating officer, a position vacant for two years.

Mr. Searle, 48, currently executive vice president of the North Canton, Ohio, automated teller machine manufacturer, will assume the new post in November. He will also become a Diebold director.

Industry experts said it was critical to fill the post because Diebold continues to grow at a healthy pace. They expect Mr. Searle to work on new initiatives, like smart card and campus card systems.

The last chief operating officer was Robert P. Barone, who left in August 1994 and is currently chairman of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association. The functions had been partially assumed by Robert W. Mahoney, chairman and chief executive officer, to whom Mr. Searle will report.

"I had been president, chief executive officer, chairman of the board, and chief operating officer since 1993," Mr. Mahoney said. "I felt, and the board felt, it was time to break out chief operating officer. Gregg will do a great job."

Mr. Mahoney said the promotion will allow him to focus on strategic international and domestic issues, with an eye to merger and acquisition possibilities.

Mr. Searle will manage the day-to-day issues of the company's global operations.

Mr. Mahoney said Mr. Searle was instrumental in running Interbold, the company's joint ATM venture with International Business Machines Corp. He added that Mr. Searle has a great deal of field and international experience for Diebold in Mexico and China over the past six years.

"This was a good move," said Richard Sporrer, director of research, Parker/Hunter Inc., Pittsburgh. "It will free up Mahoney's time to let him think about strategic things and international expansion."

Mr. Sporrer said Diebold's 1996 revenues are expected to reach $1 billion, nearly twice those of four years ago. Diebold's new initiatives include health care, campus card, and smart card technology, he said.

Diebold will also develop transaction software for the Internet.

In recent months, Diebold has announced a number of organizational changes, and the company has been making inroads in campus cards. Last year it purchased Griffin Technologies Inc., which specializes in closed card systems for campuses.

Before joining Diebold in 1990, Mr. Searle worked at IBM for 18 years.

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