Saturday, June 17, 2000

Baldwin investors reject plan to sell




By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Investors in Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. on Friday rejected a shareholder proposal to put the company's remaining operations up for sale.

        The vote count wasn't immediately available. The Mason-based company's management led by Karen Hendricks, chairwoman and CEO, has been the target of shareholder complaints because of the sluggish stock price.

        The board of directors opposed the sale proposal presented by Bolero Investment Group, headed by dissident shareholder Kenneth Pavia. Mr. Pavia's previous proposals were also rejected by shareholders.

        Baldwin's shares closed Friday at $6, unchanged on the day. The stock has fallen from just over $9 a share at the start of the year.

        In the first quarter ended March 31, the 138-year-old piano maker reported a narrower loss of $908,000, or 26 cents a share. That compared to a loss of $1.8 mil lion, or 53 cents a share, a year ago.

        The latest quarter included a gain of 21 cents a share on the sale of its retail finance unit to Deutsche Financial Services.

        Ms. Hendricks said in prepared remarks that while last year was a disappointment, the company had taken steps to position the company for the future.

        “Our primary focus is to return our two remaining businesses (contract electronics and pianos) to profitability in 2000,” she said. “However, we will continue to dedicate resources toward our future.”

        Two ideas with promise she mentioned are Baldwin's national accounts business — selling pianos to large enterprises such as hotel chains in large numbers — and pianosonsale.com, a Web site for prospective piano buyers.

        Shareholders also elected seven directors to one-year terms, including two new directors, Brent D. Baird and James T. Heffernan.

       



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