Gemstar Dismisses CFO; No Replacement Named

From Bloomberg News

Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. fired Chief Financial Officer Brian Urban five months before his contract was to end.

Chief Executive Rich Battista will serve as acting finance chief until Urban is replaced, Los Angeles-based Gemstar said Thursday.

Gemstar, the biggest maker of software for cable television program guides, already had begun to look for a new CFO.

Urban, whose contract ran through June 30, is the third executive Gemstar has fired in the last three years. In April 2003, the company fired CFO Elsie Leung and CEO Henry Yuen after revealing accounting missteps in April 2002.

Urban's departure isn't connected with those firings, spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said Thursday in a telephone interview. Murphy didn't provide a reason for Urban's dismissal.

"A smoother transition with a replacement already selected would have been preferable," J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. analyst Barton Crockett wrote in a research note. Crockett, who rates the shares "overweight," said the firing was an "unwieldy and unfortunate handling of a key post."

Shares of Gemstar, 41% owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and publisher of TV Guide magazine, closed unchanged at $3.06.

Urban, 43, joined Gemstar as finance chief in July 2003. Previously he had been CFO of Unilab Corp.

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