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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS | VENTURA COUNTY
REVIEW

Deukmejian to Join Simi Valley's Whittaker Corp. as Director

December 31, 1996|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Attempting to stabilize an operation that recorded a net loss of more than $17 million for fiscal 1996, officials of Simi Valley's Whittaker Corp. have appointed former California Gov. George Deukmejian as director of the corporation.

Whittaker, which manufactures electronic products for the telecommunications and aerospace industries, also named John Otto vice president of the corporation and Eva Jountis controller.

The appointments complete a reorganization of company management that began in October with the return of Joseph Alibrandi as chief executive. Alibrandi had served in that capacity from 1974 to 1994.

Alibrandi, who has worked with Deukmejian in various capacities over the years, said he expects the former politician to provide the company with valuable decision-making skills during the critical 1996-97 fiscal year.

"He obviously has a good appreciation of public issues and government issues," Alibrandi said. "But more importantly he has basic good judgment and common sense and that's what we want on the board."

Alibrandi served with Deukmejian on the board of directors of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The two also worked together when Alibrandi headed the California Business Roundtable's education task force while Deukmejian was governor.

Deukmejian, a partner in the Los Angeles law firm of Sidley & Austin, said he will need to be brought up to speed on the Whittaker operation, but looks forward to his involvement with the company.

"I hope to be able to be helpful in strengthening the company and in helping to improve the investments made by the shareholders," Deukmejian said.

Deukmejian continues to serve on the board of directors of both Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Health Systems International, of which Health Net is the main California subsidiary.

"I place a primary focus on quality of product and service to the customers of the companies," Deukmejian said. "I have felt that I bring to the boards the viewpoint of the person receiving the service and product and try my best to emphasize the importance of that role to the company. In doing so, it is my view that the companies will continue to expand and be profitable."

Whittaker reported a net loss of $17.1 million on sales of $221.9 million for the year ended Oct. 31, compared with net income of $7.9 million on sales of $159.5 million for fiscal 1995.

The company's struggles coincide with its transition from aerospace and defense to aerospace and communications. Whittaker's aerospace division reported a profit of $20.3 million for fiscal 1996 while its communications division reported a loss of $30.7 million during that period.

Alibrandi blamed much of the net loss to acquisitions that have yet to be fully worked into the Whittaker operation.

In 1995, Whittaker purchased Hughes LAN Systems from Hughes Electronics for $32.5 million. Last March, the company acquired Xyplex Inc. from the Raytheon Corp. for $117.5 million.

Both deals were made to propel Whittaker into the communications industry. Alibrandi and Deukmejian said their focus in the new year will be to make those acquisitions profitable.

"We made a lot of aggressive acquisitions in the last year or so, which is one of the reasons we find ourselves so highly leveraged," Alibrandi said. "The real challenge now is to integrate the acquisitions so they contribute to the company rather than detract, from a financial point of view.

"I expect in 1997 we will demonstrate that communication will be a major contributor to Whittaker's performance," he said, "that communication will go from being a lost operation to a positive contributor to the company."

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