Medifast promotes McDevitt to chief executive

January 06, 2007|By Allison Connolly | Allison Connolly,Sun reporter

At a time when many people are resolving to lose weight in the new year, Medifast Inc. yesterday named a new chief executive and announced a new marketing strategy that the Owings Mills company hopes will expand sales of its diet shakes and protein bars.

Medifast President and Chief Financial Officer Michael S. McDevitt will become chief executive officer March 1. Bradley T. MacDonald, chairman and CEO, will stay on as chairman and will focus on new business development and community relations.

MacDonald steered the company from the brink of bankruptcy in 1999 to revenue of $40.1 million in 2005. The 26-year-old company expects sales of at least $70 million for 2006.

"I'm very excited about being more involved with the strategic decisions of the company," said McDevitt, who came to Medifast in June 2002 from the New York private equity firm Blackstone Group LP, where he was a senior analyst. He will retain his CFO duties.

Named as president and chief operating officer was Margaret E. MacDonald, Bradley MacDonald's daughter and former vice president of operations.

Medifast, which competes with NutriSystem and Slim-Fast, offers low-calorie ready-to-eat meals that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Besides shakes, bars and soups, the company last month introduced powdered scrambled eggs.

Medifast employs 200 at its Owings Mills manufacturing plant and 75 at its distribution center in Ridgely.

The management moves come as the company introduces a new marketing approach, offering a 30-day "no questions asked" money-back guarantee on orders of $275 or more.

Also, the company is changing its television advertising from 30-minute testimonials to a talk-show format, featuring interviews about the dangers of obesity and how Medifast can be a solution.

Medifast tries to distinguish itself from competitors by stressing the health benefits of its products, which it says are recommended by 15,000 doctors.

The company plans to double its advertising budget this year to about $28 million, McDevitt said.

Medifast stock closed yesterday at $11.60, down 80 cents a share. In the past year, shares have traded in a range of $5.49 to $21.15.

allison.connolly@baltsun.com

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