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Smith Cutbacks of Corporate Staff Cast Pall

March 01, 1985|JANE APPLEGATE | Times Staff Writer

A pall hung over Smith International Inc.'s Newport Beach headquarters Thursday after 31 of Smith's 95 corporate headquarters employees were laid off in a move to save the ailing oil services company millions of dollars a year. Smith's remaining corporate employees face reductions in employee benefit programs, primarily medical insurance.

The terminations came close on the heels of 700 job cuts made Feb. 8 at Smith Tool in Irvine. Also, informed company sources said Smith is preparing a move from its deluxe Newport Beach headquarters to a more modest site. Officials at Smith, which employs 8,250 worldwide, declined to comment on the possible move.

Securities analysts have said that Smith's cost-cutting may continue as the price of crude oil slides and the number of drilling rigs working around the world declines. Smith Chairman and Chief Executive Jerry Neely recently said the company is restructuring itself and cutting back at every level to cope with the lengthy industry slump.

"It's a very difficult day for all of us," said Smith Vice President Paul Russell in a telephone interview Thursday. "We have lost many fine people who have contributed greatly to Smith."

The cuts came at all levels, from corporate officers to secretaries and were effective immediately. Smith announced the layoffs Tuesday but waited until Thursday to inform individual employees.

Although Smith reported that 1984 revenues were $747 million, up 7% over 1983, the company has delayed reporting its annual earnings while it continues to negotiate with Gearhart Industries Inc., a Texas, oil services company Smith has been trying to acquire.

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