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Key Financial Execs at Resign

Internet: The news sends stock down to an all-time low. CEO dismisses suggestions that the moves are an ominous sign.

October 10, 2000|ASHLEY DUNN | TIMES STAFF WRITER, the Santa Monica-based online provider of stamps and shipping services, said Monday that three of its top officers stepped down, news that caused its once highflying shares to drop to a record low before recovering somewhat.

The company's shares fell as low as $3.25, then closed off 13 cents, or 3.5%, at $3.50 on Nasdaq, after the company announced that its president, chief financial officer and comptroller had resigned. The stock traded as high as $98.50 late last year, but has been in a tailspin since. The company has lost $136 million on sales of $6 million over the past 12 months.

Loren Smith, who took over as president and chief operating officer last October, said he would return to his role as a board member. Chief Financial Officer John LaValle and Comptroller Candelario Andalon departed to "pursue other endeavors," according to a statement from the company.

No successors were named Monday for any of the positions.

Chief Executive John Payne dismissed suggestions that the departures were an ominous sign for the company's prospects. "People often seek assurances about the soundness of a company's financial and accounting procedures when key financial executives leave," he said in a prepared statement. "There are no such issues in this situation."

David Shoenfeld, chief marketing officer, also downplayed the changes, noting that Smith will remain active in the company as a board member.

He added that LaValle and Andalon were early employees who left because of their preference to work on younger start-up companies. Neither could be reached for comment. was created in 1996 by three UCLA business students. Their idea was to allow people to buy stamps on the Internet and print them out on envelopes using their own printers.

The company charges a $16 monthly fee or a 10% surcharge above the price of the postage up to a maximum of $20 a month. launched its service last October and has become the leading provider of online stamps. Its competitors include San Mateo-based E-Stamp Corp. and postage meter king Pitney Bowes Inc. bought in March for about $300 million in stock, gaining a service that allows customers to price, ship and track packages sent through private shippers, such as Federal Express and United Parcel Service.

The company has recently started another service that handles the mailing of returned items for mail-order companies.

Shares of rival E-Stamp Corp. fell 3 cents to 88 cents on Nasdaq on Monday.

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