Chief Operating Officer Unter to leave Corvis at end of month

He will be third executive to quit company since Jan.

May 21, 2002|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

Corvis Corp., the Columbia maker of fiber-optic equipment, said yesterday that its chief operating officer, Terry Unter, is leaving the company at the end of the month.

Unter is the third executive to leave Corvis in recent months.

Anne Stuart, formerly Corvis' chief financial officer, left the company in January. Rick Bakosh, senior vice president of global sales, left in April.

Unter is expected to leave May 31.

"Maybe this is just a reaffirmation of the fact that Corvis has bigger problems than a lot of people really want to admit to," said Sam Greenholtz, a telecommunications analyst for Communications Industry Researchers in Charlottesville, Va.

Rick Schafer, a research analyst for CIBC World Markets in Denver, discounted the significance of the departures. "I don't think ... it points to any sign of any deeper internal trouble at Corvis," he said.

Corvis is losing money, but the entire telecommunications industry has been struggling for months. The company reported a net loss of $71 million, or 20 cents per share, for the quarter that ended March 30. Revenue was $8.7 million.

The company's stock price has tumbled almost 99 percent from its $108.06 high in August 2000. Shares closed yesterday at $1.16, down 4 cents.

Corvis has five customers. The parent company of one of those customers, Williams Communications LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month.

Another struggling customer, Qwest Communications International Inc., recently reduced a $150 million equipment order to $12 million with an option to buy the $138 million balance.

Greenholtz and Schafer, the analysts, believe that Corvis is a target for a takeover.

"Right now, Corvis is just in big trouble all over, I think, and the solution may very well be a buyout," Greenholtz said, adding that employees may have to consider where they would end up if the company were sold.

Corvis does not comment on such speculation. Corvis spokeswoman Keira Shein said the recent executive departures are not out of the ordinary. "A young company like Corvis goes through steps to mature," she said.

Shein said that Unter, who has worked for Corvis since 1998, left on good terms. He is leaving to spend time with his family and work on his sailboat, the company said in a release.

Corvis is not planning to replace Unter. His responsibilities will be distributed throughout the company, Shein said.

The company's new president, James Bannantine, is expected to handle Corvis' day-to-day operations, including sales and marketing, manufacturing, customer service, human resources and business development.

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