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Angeion CEO here today, gone tomorrow: Phil Smith resigns

Update: 1:45 p.m. St. Paul, Minnesota-based public company Angeion Corp. made a surprising announcement this morning. CEO Phillip Smith is leaving the company after less than six months on the job. In a tersely worded statement, the company said Smith resigned after he and Angeion’s board reached a “mutual decision.” This is all the more […]

Update: 1:45 p.m.

St. Paul, Minnesota-based public company Angeion Corp. made a surprising announcement this morning.

CEO Phillip Smith is leaving the company after less than six months on the job. In a tersely worded statement, the company said Smith resigned after he and Angeion’s board reached a “mutual decision.” This is all the more strange given that when Smith was named to the position Nov. 10 (he assumed the office Jan. 1), he was a board member.

Not only is Smith resigning as CEO, he is also withdrawing his name for re-election as a director at Angeion’s annual shareholder meeting on May 26. He became a director in October 2006.

Smith is being replaced immediately by Gregg Lehman who will be interim CEO, but is not an insider. Most recently, he was president and CEO of Minneapolis-based HealthFitness Corp. In December, HealthFitness named a new CEO to replace him and in that announcement the company said that Lehman was leaving the company “with plans to launch a new company focused on acquiring healthcare IT and hospital service delivery companies.” Clearly he is not starting a new company.

Angeion designs, manufactures and distributes cardiorespiratory diagnostic systems. The company has had some troubles lately. In August, the company fired its CFO. In September, the company restructured its board to quell a proxy battle with an investor — BlueLine Partners — who argued that while the company’s stock price dived down 67 percent since 2007, it doubled board pay. As a result, Angeion replaced board chairman Dr. K. James Ehlen with Mark Sheffert, chairman and CEO of Manchester Cos., who was chairman and director for Medical Graphics Corp. when Angeion acquired it in 1999.

On Wednesday, Sheffert said in a statement that the “board is considering options for filling the vacancy … and will promptly make a decision about these matters that will be publicly announced as soon as practicable.”

UPDATE

In a phone interview, Sheffert reiterated that Smith’s resignation was a “mutual decision” and that “Phil had accomplished many of the things that he wanted to achieve” including hiring a new CFO. (Six months is awfully quick to have achieved objectives as CEO.)

Sheffert added the board is excited about Lehman joining the company and was waiting for his arrival – Lehman was delayed on a flight.  A board meeting tomorrow will firm up the process of naming a permanent CEO. Lehman will be a candidate for the job, Sheffert said.

Meanwhile watchers of the Twin Cities medical device industry reacted with surprise with responses to Smith’s sudden departure ranging from “shocked” to “already?”