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Key exec leaves SoftKey

An officer who has helped keep the SoftKey-Learning merger glued together leaves for a smaller health-care software company called Mecon.

An officer who has helped keep the SoftKey-Learning Co. merger glued together left today for a smaller health-care software company called Mecon.

Les Schmidt managed the day-to-day operations and was a key strategic planner at SoftKey, following its buyout of Learning Company in December, one of the few hostile high-tech mergers. Broderbund also had bid for Learning Company.

Schmidt, formerly chief operating officer of Learning Company, was well regarded on Wall Street. As one recent report by investment banking firm Wasserstein Perella said, "a critical retention was Les Schmidt."

In a statement, Schmidt said: "I wish the best to everyone in the company," adding that SoftKey was "well positioned" for the future. He starts his new job as president and CEO of Mecon on September 16.

The SoftKey-Learning Company merger has come under close scrutiny by Wall Street. Some skeptics speculated it would encounter difficulty because it was a hostile bid and came amid a downturn in the cutthroat consumer and educational software market.

In a statement today, SoftKey said "Les has been instrumental in ensuring a smooth integration of these companies. We wish him well in his new endeavor."

The announcement came after the stock market closed.

SoftKey also announced the appointment of two other executives, Martin Rice to vice president of R&D and Diana James-Cairnsvice president of marketing.