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3Com insiders hedging their bets

The company's director exercises some of his stock options, making him one of just a handful of insiders within 3Com to take profits this year.

3Com director Jean-Louis Gassée recently took home $1.45 million by exercising some of his stock options, making him one of just a handful of insiders within that company to take profits this year.

"In 1998, there's been very few insider sells in 3Com," said Craig Columbus, an insider analyst with Disclosure. "There's been only three sells this year, and that is abnormally low for this company."

The diminished level of selling among insiders, he said, is a bullish indicator that the company's executives believe the stock still has some upside potential.

3Com's stock has taken a 33 percent dip between the start of January and June. However, since June 2, when the stock closed at 24 a share, it has been on a rebound, climbing to 30.5625 as of Friday's close.

Gassée, who no longer holds any 3Com common shares, exercised 60,000 options at a strike price of $7.50 on May 8, selling them at $31.87 a share. Those options were set to expire in September.

Formerly president of Apple Computer's product division and currently chairman and chief executive of software company Be, Gassée holds an additional 60,000 3Com options with a strike price of $47.13 that expire in September 2000, and 60,000 more options with a strike price of $51.75 that are set to expire in September of the year 2002, Columbus said. (Columbus is a Marketwise columnist for NEWS.COM).

"My option sales?are a simple matter of replenishing the Gassée family treasury after Be's financing a couple of months ago and prior to our eldest son going to college," Gassée said via email.

By comparison, more than 30 insider transactions took place at 3Com last year, during which the networking company acquired giant modem maker US Robotics in a stock deal valued around $8.5 billion. Some US Robotics executives cashed in portions of their 3Com stock at that time.