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Premier Laser Systems Names Michael Quinn President and CEO

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Premier Laser Systems Inc., which has posted losses for more than five years, has tapped health industry veteran Michael J. Quinn as president and chief executive officer.

Quinn, 54, replaces founder Colette Cozean, who will retain her positions as chairman and chief technology officer of the Irvine-based developer of medical and dental lasers.

Most recently, Quinn helped steer Imagyn Medical Technologies, an Irvine developer of surgical products, out of bankruptcy. Before that, he helped ramp up sales and profits by 40% at Pittsburgh-based Fisher Scientific Co., a supplier of instruments, research chemicals and other laboratory supplies, Premier Laser said.

“He’s got outstanding credentials and seems like an excellent choice to help the company make the transition from a development-stage company to an operating company,” said John Westergaard, chairman of Westergaard.com Inc., a New York City publisher of several online financial newsletters.

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Cozean’s technical background, combined with Quinn’s sales and marketing savvy, should help the company get back on track, said William Relyea, an analyst with Josephthal & Co., which has a buy recommendation for Premier.

“We’re going to shift into second gear,” said Quinn, who also has held executive positions at Orange-based Bergen Brunswig Corp., the third-largest U.S. drug wholesaler, and OCP America, a New Jersey-based wholesale pharmaceutical company.

“Our goal is to sell our products in as many markets to as many customers as we can.”

The company has introduced five new products this year, including the BluLaze laser system, which Premier says can whiten teeth in an hour and harden fillings twice as fast as existing methods.

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It has recently beefed up its executive team by hiring Christopher Headle, a former vice president of sales at B. Braun/McGaw in Irvine, as senior vice president of sales and marketing, a new position. The firm is searching for a director of research and development, also a new position.

But Premier also has stumbled badly.

In the past 2 1/2 years, the company has lost more than $72 million, including $5.1 million in the first half of its current fiscal year.

In 1998, Premier had a damaging dispute with a major distributor, its auditor resigned and trading in its stock was suspended for five months.

Ensuing lawsuits accused the company of fraud and other securities law violations.

In January, Premier agreed to settle 19 class-action shareholder suits for almost $14 million. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

Despite hiring Quinn, Premier still has a long way to go, said John Doss, an analyst with Dominick & Dominick, a New York brokerage firm. “All the right pieces are there, but when you’ve got yourself in a hole, it’s hard to see the sun,” he said. “They’re doing a lot of catch-up.”

The company’s Nasdaq-listed stock, once a darling of Wall Street, closed Monday at $1.81 a share, down 6 cents.

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Premier first appeared in the market spotlight in May 1997, when it received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market a laser that could be used directly on teeth to treat tooth decay. The product garnered an avalanche of media attention and was hailed as a giant step toward drill-free, pain-free dentistry.

In the days following the company’s announcement, Premier’s stock more than doubled to $14 a share.

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New Leader

Premier Laser Systems Inc., which has struggled to sell its promising dental and medical lasers, has hired veteran executive Michael J. Quinn as chief executive officer. Quinn’s credentials; company sales and net income:

Profile: Michael J. Quinn

Age: 54

New position: President, chief executive officer, Premier Laser Systems Inc.

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Previous position: President, chief operating officer, Imagyn Medical Technologies

Background: Boosted sales and profits by 40% in a 2 1/2-year period at Fisher Scientific Co.; held executive positions at drug wholesalers Bergen Brunswig Corp. and OCP America

Education: Bachelor’s degree, State University of New York at Buffalo.

Personal: Married, two daughters

Residence: Laguna Niguel

Stock chart

(in excel filed called PREMIER on scans temp mac)

Sales (in millions)

1995 $1.25

1996 1.70

1997 5.09

1998 9.89

1999 13.97

Net income (in millions)

1995 -$3.81

1996 -5.75

1997 -5.97

1998 -38.76

1999 -28.96

Sources Bloomberg News and Premier Laser Systems

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