Wall Street believes Tenet Healthcare ( THC) CFO Robert Shapard had a good reason to leave. But investors in the struggling hospital chain took little comfort Friday. Shapard, who arrived at Tenet just seven months ago with virtually no experience in the hospital industry, said late Thursday he would leave to return to TXU ( TXU) for what could prove to be a key advisory role. Though the timing of his move initially raised eyebrows in some quarters , Shapard said he "could not pass up" the chance to explore strategic options for a regulated power division. TXU says it wants to further maximize shareholder value following a 75% run-up in the company's stock price over the past year. Analysts mostly bought that explanation Friday. Even so, Tenet's stock tumbled 5.6% to set a fresh 19-month low of $9.23. "Given Shapard's experience in the utility industry, it is not surprising that he was offered an opportunity to return to the utility industry and that the offer was compelling enough for him to decide to leave a position in the hospital industry -- an industry which was new to him," writes Lehman Brothers analyst Adam Feinstein, who has an underweight rating on Tenet's stock. But "we do not believe that Shapard's decision to leave at this time is a signal of a new issue at Tenet."
Several other analysts reached the same conclusion on Friday, though Fulcrum analyst Sheryl Skolnick sounded a bit more worried than most. To be fair, Skolnick raised some questions about whether Shapard was the right person for the job in the first place. Moreover, she said that she had sensed that Shapard himself was not "fully engaged" in the post. Thus, she suggested, he could very well be replaced by a more appropriate pick going forward. That said, however, Skolnick still felt troubled by the development.