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Beauty-Aids Maker Fires Top Executive : Termination: Advantage Life Products of Laguna Hills won't say what led to ouster. Company has struggled financially.

March 10, 1994|JAMES M. GOMEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAGUNA HILLS — Advantage Life Products Inc., the beauty-aids marketer known for its use of infomercials to push its products, said Wednesday that it had fired its chief executive officer.

The Laguna Hills company said that, in a vote Tuesday night, the five-member board of directors "terminated the employment" of Chief Executive Michael Ackerman, who took over the financially struggling firm's top spot less than eight months ago.

Ackerman, who remains a member of the board, was immediately replaced by the company's chief financial officer, Jim Stapleton, who will run the company on an interim basis while directors launch a nationwide executive search.

Stapleton declined to say what led to Ackerman's sudden dismissal.

"There were a variety of reasons," Stapleton said, adding that it is likely the company will detail the reasons for Ackerman's firing "in the near future."

Ackerman, who was unavailable Wednesday for comment, can only be removed from his board spot by shareholders during the firm's annual meeting, scheduled for September.

He was hired to be Advantage Life's chief executive officer when the company bought privately held Lasting Cosmetics Inc., based in New York, in July in an all-stock deal valued at $2.2 million.

Lasting Cosmetics, which was founded and owned by Ackerman, was best known for its 30-minute television commercial hosted by actress Loretta Swit, who demonstrated the company's Lasting Kiss, a non-smudging lipstick.

Ackerman came to a company that has been struggling financially for several years. Last year, Advantage Life narrowly escaped further financial problems when it sold the rights to its controversial CigArrest smoking-cessation kit, four months before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a ban against it and similar stop-smoking products.

It had marketed CigArrest and other products, such as Cholest-Control, InsomAway and PMS Solutions, directly to consumers through infomercials--forms of advertising that have come under fire because they often resemble news or talk shows.

Advantage Life, nevertheless, continues to have its share of on-again, off-again troubles. It has suffered losses in two of its last four quarters. Though it showed an annual profit of $216,459 for fiscal 1993, which ended April 30, 1993, its fiscal 1992 loss was $2.2 million on $1.2 million in revenue.

Stapleton said that the company was moving forward with introducing other products it purchased with Lasting Cosmetic's acquisition, including its Secret Hair hairstyling product, which it plans to begin selling soon.

"The main thing is that I don't see this (firing) as having any impact on our growth strategy," Stapleton said.

Advantage Life stock fell 3.125 cents a share Wednesday on the Nasdaq market, to close at 50 cents a share.

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