Manugistics Group Inc. disclosed yesterday that it fired its president, as the maker of business software tries to reverse slipping sales, rising costs and a falling stock price.
Jeremy Coote, who primarily ran sales and marketing for the Rockville company, was terminated last week and will leave today, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Coote had joined the company about a year ago with high expectations of boosting sales, but during his tenure the company continued to post losses on declining sales. In recent weeks, some analysts predicted major management changes.
Under his employment agreement, Coote is entitled to a year's salary and benefits and his options continue to vest if he is terminated without cause. Coote's 2004 salary was $195,423, plus a bonus of $77,344.
Manugistics did not release additional information regarding the terms of his employment or the circumstances of his departure. Executives, through a spokeswoman, said they were constrained in commenting by a quiet period before releasing the company's upcoming earnings. Coote, contacted by telephone, declined to comment.
Sheila Blackwell, a spokeswoman for Manugistics, said Coote's departure was not acrimonious.
The announcement came after the company last month hired a new chief executive, Joseph L. Cowan, who was given a mandate to cut costs and boost sales. The company, which supplies software to help corporations and government agencies manage their vendors and inventories, has not been profitable since the quarter ended November 2000.
"Manugistics is in a different place than it was a year ago," Blackwell said. "Joe Cowan is a hands-on CEO with lots of operational experience and a lot of international experience, so he did not require a president in this environment." In the short term, the company does not plan to fill Coote's position, she said.
Coote was hired in June 2003 because of his background leading large software operations at SAP AG and Siebel Systems Inc., two of Manugistics's major competitors.
But in recent months, the company started shifting control away from Coote because sales were not materializing. During the company's last earnings conference call in June, Gregory J. Owens -- then chief executive -- said that he would take over some sales responsibilities, including Coote's international operation. Owens had stepped down as chief executive but remained chairman of the board when Cowan joined the company.
During its most recent quarter, ended in May, Manugistics's sales fell 21 percent, to $51.6 million, compared with $65.6 million during the same period last year. The company lost $7.7 million, compared with a $57.5 million loss in the year-ago quarter.
Shares of Manugistics, which traded above $9 in January, have been falling steadily. Its shares closed yesterday at $2.31, down 1 cent.
Analysts said yesterday that Manugistics is spending too much of its cash and cash equivalents, which were down 16 percent, to $116.7 million, in the most recent quarter, compared with $138.9 million three months earlier.
"Something wasn't working," and hiring Cowan signaled change at the top ranks, said Patrick Walravens, managing director and analyst with JMP Securities LLC in San Francisco. When Coote did not speak at the annual shareholders meeting earlier this month, Walravens wrote in a research note that it was likely Coote would leave the company, or already had left.
Manugistics has been suffering for several years from a general decline in software spending by businesses, but also from stiffer competition from companies such as SAP, said David Hilal, an analyst with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc.
Corporations are looking for one-stop shops such as SAP, Coote's former employer, which offer a wider variety of software, handling functions including finance, human resources and customer relations, Hilal said. Manugistics handles a single niche.
The analyst predicted Manugistics will have to do more cost-cutting, although the chief executive has not yet said so. The company employed 868 people as of May 31.
Staff writer Carrie Johnson contributed to this report.