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Orange County Executives Take Paper Losses in Stride

October 25, 1987|JOHN TIGHE | Times Staff Writer

Top executives at Orange County companies suffered stunning paper losses in last week's stock market's decline, but most seemed to take the setback in stride.

While acknowledging that the record-shattering decline was disheartening, several said they are in the stock market for the long term and did not transform their paper plunges into actual losses by selling shares.

David Bright, president of National Education, a Newport Beach-based operator of vocational business schools, said: "We reported a 26% increase in earnings two days before. What can you do to stop the market? I just watched it go down. . . . It was almost comical."

Bright's 411,475 shares of National Education stock have lost $2.9 million in value since Oct. 2. The shares were worth $7.8 million at Friday's close, contrasted with $10.7 million three weeks earlier.

Other executives were equally unruffled.

"I wasn't too perturbed," said Robert Gumbiner, chairman of FHP International, a Fountain Valley-based health maintenance organization. "I'm in it for the long run. I've seen a lot of ups and downs in 25 years at the company. I thought our stock was undervalued, and now it is even more so. . . . Our company is fundamentally sound."

Gumbiner's 4.6 million shares of FHP stock have lost $11 million in value in three weeks. The shares were worth $28.4 million at the close of trading Friday, contrasted with $39.4 million on Oct. 2.

"I wouldn't mind owning the whole company at this price," said R.D. Hubbard, chairman of Irvine-based AFG Industries, one of the nation's leading manufacturers of flat-glass products.

AFG was one of several Orange County corporations to begin corporate stock buy-back plans last week to capitalize on its reduced share prices, but Hubbard said he is not allowed to buy AFG shares for his own account while the repurchase plan is in progress. At Friday's close of $25.375 per share, Hubbard's 3 million AFG shares were worth $76.8 million, down $19.6 million from Oct. 2.

A few executives experienced reduced losses as a result of previous stock sales. A.J. Moyer, chief financial officer at Western Digital, an Irvine-based computer products manufacturer, sold 8,280 shares of Western Digital stock for $28 per share in August. His remaining 1,720 shares were worth $26,875 at Friday's closing price of $15.625 per share, contrasted with $43,645 three weeks earlier.

"I was in Washington, D.C., . . . meeting with European money managers," Moyer said. "They were watching their funds being beaten up, and I was equally concerned."

Douglas Hunt, president of Systonetics, a Fullerton-based technology firm, had no losses on his 10,000 shares of Systonetics stock, which closed Friday at $1, unchanged for the three weeks. But the rest of his portfolio took a pounding.

"I was hit very heavily in other stocks and in mutual funds," Hunt said. "I tried selling, but phone lines were so jammed I couldn't get through. Now I'm glad I couldn't get through. I'm going to hold in there."

Some executives simply wouldn't discuss the situation. Fluor Chairman David S. Tappan, who owns 194,458 shares of of the Irvine-based engineering and construction firm, has suffered a $1.2 million decline since Oct. 2. At Friday's close, his Fluor stock was worth $2.7 million, contrasted with $3.9 million three weeks earlier.

"Mr. Tappan is not interested in talking about his personal investments," Fluor spokesman Rick Maslin said. "The feeling is that this week's market activity is being overdramatized."

Others were unscathed by the market crash. At Startel, an Irvine-based defense contractor, chief financial officer Richard Holder said he wasn't hurt because he owns no Startel stock.

"I ain't got no cash," Holder said. "I'm in the process of buying a house."

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