President of NEC's Applied Learning Steps Down : Education: The problem-plagued division has been blamed for much of the company's recent losses.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After only five months on the job, Kenneth G. Riedlinger has stepped down as president and chief executive of National Education Corp.'s problem-plagued Applied Learning division, the company said Friday.

Riedlinger has been replaced by Ronald N. Tapper, executive vice president of NEC, the once high-flying vocational education company that has fallen on hard times this year.

The shake-up again throws the spotlight on the Applied Learning unit, NEC's Chicago-based division that sells interactive video and computer-assisted training in data processing and human resources development to large companies. The division has been blamed for much of the company's recent losses.

The company's stock Friday fell 62.5 cents to $6.125 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. In the past year, the company's stock traded as high as $27.375.

NEC President Jerome Cwiertnia was not available to answer questions about the abrupt change in management. He said through a company spokesman only that "it was mutually agreed by Ken and NEC management that the change take place."

Riedlinger was executive director of the North America automotive operations of the Ford Motor Co. before taking the reins at Applied Learning on June 1. He was recruited by NEC after the resignation of Bill Roach as president and chief executive of Applied Learning in August, 1988.

NEC spokesman Jerry Derloshon said the decision to put someone else in charge of Applied Learning was made Thursday night.

Riedlinger's departure comes after National Education posted loss of $6.5 million in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, compared to net income of $13 million in the same quarter a year ago. The company, which sustained a nine-month loss of $1 million, blamed the plunging third-quarter results on deep-seated problems at Applied Learning.

Applied Learning has suffered from serious management difficulties, including billing and computer problems that were considered responsible for NEC's $1.5-million loss in the second quarter.

The change in the chief executive spot at Applied Learning is only the last in a long series of top management shake-ups at NEC since last March. The most jolting was the board of directors' July 19 ouster of H. David Bright, the company's longtime chairman and chief executive officer.

David C. Jones, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was appointed chairman of NEC in August. One of his first moves was to bring back Cwiertnia, who had been president of the firm before resigning in March.

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