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Centennial restarts with new CEO

The PC card maker hopes the legal and financial troubles of the past year are behind it.

It's been a rough year for Centennial Technologies (CENL), but today the company tried for a fresh start with the announcement of a new president and chief executive.

L. Michael Hone takes the reins as president and chief executive at Centennial, which makes a broad range of PC cards; he will also serve on the board. He replaces Emanuel Pinez, who served as chairman and chief executive and was ousted over criminal charges of inflating the company's financial results.

Earlier this year Centennial was hit with a number of class-action suits that charged the company, Pinez, and chief financial officer James Murphy with making material misrepresentations about the company's financial statements.

And in June, the company restated its loss of $40.2 million over a period of more than three years. Centennial, which earlier had reported a profit of $12.1 million for the period, found the largest portion of the restatement occurred during the last six months of 1996.

Hone was most recently chairman and chief executive at PSC, a hand-held and fixed position bar code scanner manufacturer.

"Taking the helm at Centennial at this time promises both challenges and great opportunities," said Hone, in a statement.

The company said this announcement continues its move toward creating a new Centennial--one that it hopes will boost sales.

"[Hone's] goal is to grow the company and that is what the company expects from him," said Cheryl Byrne, a company spokeswoman. "Everything that the company has done has been to distance itself from the actions of the former CEO and moving ever since towards creating the new Centennial. We have done a lot of hard work , but there is a lot more that has to be done."

She noted that in February, the company had defaulted on a $13.5 million loan, but that is now paid in full. And more than 30 lawsuits have been settled in principle.

The company, noting that its independent audit was complete, also said it posted a third-quarter loss of $6.4 million, or 36 cents a share, for the period ending March 31, compared with a loss of $1.2 million a year ago. Its sales reached $10.9 million for the quarter, up from $8.8 million a year ago.

The company's stock closed today at 1-1/2. The stock traded as high as 55-1/2 per share during the class period and closed at 16-1/2 per share on February 10. The following day it was halted in trading, and when the stock resumed trading a week later, it fell to over 80 percent to 3-1/8. It was then de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange.

"Centennial has come a long way since February," said Lawrence Ramaekers, a turnaround specialist who has served as Centennial's interim chief executive since February, in a prepared statement. "We believe that the company has addressed the problems of the past and has laid the foundation for significant growth."