Aether founder Oros to give up NexCen post

March 24, 2007|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,Sun reporter

David S. Oros, who founded a local company that was a star during the tech boom and then reinvented itself several times, most recently as an acquisition and management company dubbed NexCen Brands Inc., will step down as chairman by the end of the year.

Oros will remain a director of New York-based NexCen Brands, the company announced yesterday.

The board has not decided yet whether to replace Oros with someone from outside or with Robert W. D'Loren, the company's president and chief executive officer. NexCen also announced yesterday that Truman T. Semans will retire from its board in the coming months.

"We are grateful for the dedicated service and contributions of Mr. Oros and Mr. Semans," D'Loren said in a statement. "We look forward to Mr. Oros' continued involvement with the company as a director."

The company did not return calls yesterday.

Oros plans to sell as many as 1.8 million shares of NexCen stock over the next year, the company statement said. Oros owned about 4.7 million shares as of Aug. 11, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commis- sion.

Oros founded Owings Mills-based Aether Systems Inc. in 1996. The company developed software that allowed many kinds of users to exchange wireless data. It raised more than $2 billion in two public stock offerings in 1999 and 2000.

But with a string of losses, the company began to crumble as the tech bubble burst. Its stock peaked at $345 a share in March 2000, the height of the technology bubble, and then plummeted, bottoming at $2.25 a share in 2002. Layoffs brought the company to about 10 employees from a peak of 1,400 in 2001.

Then, as the housing market was exploding about three years ago, Aether announced that it was leaving the wireless industry and investing in mortgage-backed securities. The company changed its name to Aether Holdings Inc. and recorded its first profitable quarter in the second quarter of 2005.

In June, Aether bought New York-based boutique investment banker UCC Capital for about $10.3 million. The company announced that it was moving its corporate headquarters to New York, and Oros would become board chairman and no longer run the day-to-day operations.

The company soon moved into yet another line of business when it announced in August that it agreed to buy the Athlete's Foot retail chain for $51.5 million. Aether changed its name to NexCen Brands in October.

NexCen has since acquired the Bill Blass Holding Co. Inc. and the ice cream businesses MaggieMoo's International LLC and Marble Slab Creamery Inc. Earlier this month, it announced it would acquire the Waverly home decor brand from F. Schumacher & Co.

It got out of the mortgage-backed securities business last year, according to company press releases.

Shares of NexCen fell 15 cents to close at $10.36 yesterday.

stacey.hirsh@baltsun.com

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