Aetrium, shareholder group settle dispute

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 1, 2013 - 9:26 PM

The board of beleaguered Aetrium announced a settlement Friday with activist shareholders that takes the fight for control of the company out of court.

The settlement gives a dissident group of shareholders led by New York investor Jeffrey Eberwein an immediate five seats on what will be an 11-member board of directors.

"This settlement will allow the company to focus on its operations and will let the shareholders choose the ongoing directors at the annual shareholder meeting on May 15," Chief Executive Joseph Levesque said in a prepared statement.

The expanded board will try to find common ground on a slate of directors to be submitted for shareholder approval. If not, the company and the Eberwein group will be free to propose competing five-member slates for a vote this spring.

Eberwein said in a prepared statement that his group is pleased with the settlement, which also calls for Aetrium to pay $85,000 in legal fees and settles outstanding litigation between the parties dating to last fall.

In December, Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann ruled on behalf of Aetrium after Eberwein's group sued following a disputed shareholder vote for control of the company. At the time, Aetrium management argued that it was best to resolve the matter at the regular shareholders' meeting.

Aetrium makes "gravity-feed" testing equipment for the semiconductor industry, which is still recovering from the recession.

Aetrium, whose stock has fallen from $6 per share since 2008, closed up slightly at 66 cents per share on Friday. The company, which has yet to report 2012 results, has a market value of about $7 million.

Longtime CEO Levesque has maintained that Aetrium will revive itself in an improving economy and that the proxy fight was a distraction.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 • nstanthony@startribune.com

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