. When we last checked in on the company a
few weeks ago it was getting an interest-free $50 million loan from its biggest customer. Now it's trying to sneak in (or so it would seem) a change of CFOs.
In a press release last week to announce the closing of a big acquisition of France's
, the company mentioned -- down toward the bottom -- that its CFO, Jeffrey Lavin, had been (oh, by the way) appointed to the position of vice president of strategic planning. The press release further said that treasurer Christopher Gorgone, who recently joined ACT from an unidentified "e-health" company, had been named "interim" CFO.
If the quiet handling of the announcement wasn't enough to raise eyebrows, consider that Lavin's predecessor as CFO had been named VP of strategic development before he left the company several years ago. "Titles are titles and roles are roles," Lavin uttered in a very brief telephone conversation (he made the mistake of picking up his own phone), before advising me that the company has a policy of
talking to the press. He then referred me to the CEO's assistant, who confirmed the press policy. She then referred me to an outside PR firm that didn't return my call. (Not that the outside firm has
returned my calls!)
Lavin's new role, meanwhile, will be to help Act integrate two recent international acquisitions into the existing company, a company with more than $300 million in debt -- after the acquisitions are complete -- and little in the way of cash. (So little cash, in fact, that it took a $50 million loan -- er, advance -- from
.) It's a company, in fact, that if nothing else during a period like this, needs a strong CFO. So, with that in mind, when does ACT plan to hire a permanent replacement for Lavin? One analyst asked that very question on a conference call held last week to discuss the merger.
CEO John Pino responded that he expected to name someone within three or four months.
Lavin then chimed in, "I'm not precluded from taking back that role, it's just now is the right time to focus on the other stuff."
But, hey, Wall Street isn't worried, and Act's stock has done nothing but go straight up since it was first mentioned here several months ago for earnings-quality issues. The stock got its latest boost on Friday when
analyst Michael Zimm initiated coverage with a recommendation of the stock.
Credit Suisse First Boston
analyst Herve Francois followed by reiterating the stock with an $85 target; it closed Monday at $71.38. If you didn't know better, you'd say that ACT was about to do a much-needed secondary offering, and those two firms are vying for the spot of lead underwriter. Not that stuff like that really happens, does it?
Should CFO changes be announced in a separate press release?
Herb Greenberg writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback and invites you to send any to
Herb Greenberg. Greenberg also writes a monthly column for Fortune.
Mark Martinez assisted with the reporting of this column.