Inside Track: AtriCure CEO is not moving to Ohio

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 2, 2014 - 12:00 PM
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Matt Arens spent 15 years at Kopp Investment Advisors before opening his own shop in September.

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Mike Carrel, CEO of Cincinnati-based AtriCure for about a year, will open what looks like a shadow headquarters and R&D facility for the atrial fibrillation products company in Minnetonka in March.

“The executive team will be split,” Carrel said in an interview. “I told the board [when hired] that I wasn’t moving to Cincinnati. It’s also important to set up research and development in the Twin Cities where we’ll partner with the University of Minnesota. We’re hiring engineering, marketing, a vice president of business development. … There’s a lot of talent in the Twin Cities. We’re not moving the whole company here. Manufacturing is well-established there.”

AtriCure (ticker:  ATRC), has seen its stock price double to nearly $19 per share over the last year, a market value approaching $400 million. There’s growing revenue from surgical to minimally invasive products that solve the problem of an irregular and often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow to the body.

Carrel stayed on as the boss at Vital Images to handle the integration after he sold the medical imaging-software firm to Toshiba Medical Systems in a $273 million deal in 2011.

Carrel said he expects to employ up to 20 people in a leased facility in the Carlson East office park.

AtriCure was a medical start-up company that went public in 2005.

First light manager likes AtriCure, other small med-techs

AtriCure is one of the 10 biggest holdings in the portfolio of Matt Arens, CEO and senior portfolio manager at First Light Asset Management of Bloomington.

Arens, who spent 15 years at Kopp Investment Advisors before opening his own shop in September, has hit $120 million in assets with a portfolio guided by his longtime belief that “a disproportionate number of health care innovations tend to come from smaller, more agile companies with disruptive technologies.”

The Arens representative portfolio was ranked the top-performing small-cap growth fund in the nation for five-year performance by PSN/Informa, which tracks investment performance. The health care portfolio is up about 30 percent annually over the last five years through September.

“The stock market has been strong this year and health care has been in favor and that combined to make 2013 a good year,” Arens said. “And there will be years when health care is out of favor.”

Arens manages money through private, separately managed accounts of customers who are brought to him by brokers at outfits such as RBC Financial, Morgan Stanley and Charles Schwab. The minimum investment is $100,000. Most customers are affluent investors who diversify their investments through a number of money managers. Arens has no plans to start a retail-investor mutual fund and get big because he’s comfortable with the small companies that are often overlooked or which are too small for the Vanguards and Fidelities that own the Medtronics and Johnson & Johnsons.

“We’ve had some local names which have been acquired over the years, which is a high-class problem,” Arens said.

Those include the former Medtox Scientific, Rochester Medical, ATS Medical and American Medical Systems.

Arens kicks himself for not investing in Cardiovascular Systems Inc. (ticker: CSII), which more than doubled in value this year on the strength of good results and a promising application approved by federal regulators in October.

 

Felons get second chance at employment

Minnesota’s “Ban the box” legislation takes effect Wednesday. Employers can no longer include a box on job applications that would require applicants to reveal criminal history.

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