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Nichols Institute Appoints President-CEO : Management: George L. Bragg is known as a turnaround specialist. A consulting firm is also hired.

September 30, 1993|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Nichols Institute, plagued by the recession and the uncertainty surrounding the Clinton Administration's national health-care proposal, said it has hired financial turnaround specialist George L. Bragg as its new president and chief executive.

The company, which develops and markets diagnostic and medical tests and test kits, said Wednesday that it also retained the noted management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and the investment bank Peter J. Solomon Co. to help it determine its future course.

A company spokeswoman declined to comment further. In an interview earlier this year, however, chairman and founder Albert L. Nichols said that the changing medical industry is "going to require changes in the way Nichols Institute does business." That could create "tremendous business opportunities" for the company, he said, if it can react quickly to change.

Bragg, 60, is former vice chairman and acting chief financial officer of Western Digital Corp. in Irvine. He was the architect of that company's management and financial reorganization in 1991 and 1992. He resigned as Western Digital vice chairman earlier this year but remains a member of the computer-parts maker's board of directors.

Bragg had been recruited to Western Digital by its longtime president and chairman, Roger L. Johnson, who worked with Bragg in the 1970s at a division of Memorex Corp. Johnson resigned all of his Western Digital posts earlier this year to accept a presidential appointment as administrator of the federal General Services Administration.

Nichols Institute appointed Bragg to its board of directors on March 1, less than two weeks before he resigned his executive post at Western Digital. At the time, Nichols said it wanted to add people with business acumen to its board, which was dominated by medical professionals.

Founder Nichols had earlier removed himself from the presidency, appointing the company's chief financial officer, Paul Bellamy, to serve as a caretaker until a permanent appointment was made.

Bragg takes the helm from Bellamy, who will stay on as chief financial officer, vice president and a director of the company.

Nichols Institute had a dismal 1992, writing off a $13-million charge for restructuring operations of a Texas subsidiary and posting an annual loss of $4.2 million. This year, by contrast, the company has been moderately profitable. For the first six months of 1993, it reported earnings of $4.4 million on revenue of $142.9 million, down slightly from revenue of $143.2 million for the same period a year earlier.

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