InforMax changing CEO and CFO

Titomirov, Bernstein stepping aside after disappointing quarter

October 19, 2001|By Julie Bell | Julie Bell,SUN STAFF

InforMax Inc., fresh off a weaker than expected third-quarter financial performance, announced that both its chief executive officer and its president will step aside.

The Bethesda-based maker of software for scientists said CEO Alex Titomirov will relinquish that title as soon as a new chief executive is found. Titomirov, a company co-founder, will remain as chairman.

InforMax President and Chief Operating Officer James E. Bernstein, another co-founder, will retire Dec. 31, including from the company's board of directors. Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer John Green already has assumed the duties of chief operating officer, and executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. has been hired to help find a replacement CEO.

"It's time for someone to lead it to the next level," analyst James D. Ackerman of Punk, Ziegel & Co. said of InforMax. "Missing the quarter provided the final impetus to make a change."

The company announced the changes late Wednesday and explained them yesterday in a conference call with analysts. "I've been doing this job for 12 years, almost," Titomirov said during the call. "I'm making this decision based on my personal career interests and my impression the company should have different skill sets and a person who would know much more [about the] drug-iscovery field."

Titomirov, a Russian molecular geneticist invited to this country by DNA sleuth James D. Watson, founded the company in 1990 with little knowledge of business and the help of Bernstein, a medical doctor and entrepreneur. At the time, Bernstein was involved in developing a private company to distribute pharmaceuticals in the former Soviet Union.

InforMax went public at $16 a share last autumn and has grown into one of the major providers of software needed to study and sort information about genes and proteins, now a key component of discovering drugs. InforMax counts 23 pharmaceutical companies and about 1,900 research organizations, including universities, among its customers. Revenue has grown to an annualized $30 million.

Still, Ackerman said, a board laden with venture capitalists apparently had become dissatisfied with the performance of their investment and wanted someone with more public-company experience to take the helm.

InforMax remains unprofitable. It announced Monday that it expected a per-share loss of 21 cents to 22 cents for the third quarter - excluding noncash charges related to stock-based compensation - almost twice the loss of 13 cents to 15 cents it earlier had estimated. At the time, the company blamed its problems on a weakened overall economy and sales postponed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Green, who joined InforMax in February, formerly was executive vice president of the North American operations of HMSHost Corp.

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