LCA-Vision Inc. (Cincinnati, OH), provider of laser vision correction services under the LasikPlus brand, has appointed Michael J. Celebrezze to the position of Chief Financial Officer on a permanent basis, effective December 1, 2008. Meanwhile, the company's founders and former executives have filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission saying they are considering actions to protect their investment and help turn around the company's flagging performance. Along with the filing, the group submitted a letter to LCAV's Chairman of the Board of Directors that they also sent to the company on on November 21.
Mr. Celebrezze, who has served as interim CFO since June 2008, was appointed to the LCA-Vision Executive Management team as Senior Vice President of Finance and Treasurer in July 2007, and joined the company as Vice President of Finance and Treasurer in July 2006.
"Following an extensive search and a thorough review of Mike's performance, the LCA-Vision board of directors unanimously approved his appointment as permanent CFO," said Steven C. Straus, LCA-Vision's CEO. "Mike stepped quickly and effectively into the CFO position in June and has performed admirably since then, making for a smooth transition during a challenging economic time. In addition to his other responsibilities as interim CFO, Mike successfully implemented a series of initiatives designed to conserve cash and better align our expense structure with current procedure volumes. Mike also is a valuable member of the LCA-Vision Executive Management team, where he plays an instrumental role in formulating and implementing strategic direction for all facets of our company."
Among initiatives aimed at supporting procedure volume and controlling costs, the company has begun both a head-to-head clinical study and has requested cost proposals to evaluate potentially reducing the number of excimer laser technology platforms utilized in its LasikPlus vision centers. "We expect that results from this study will confirm that technological advancements in laser vision correction equipment allow us to achieve our high standard of clinical outcomes regardless of the platform utilized in the procedure at a lower overall cost," commented Mr. Straus. "Results from this study could enable a reduction in the number of technology platforms per LasikPlus vision center from our current three platforms to two or perhaps even one."
He added, "During the first few weeks of our new marketing program, we are performing qualitative and quantitative reviews of our marketing activities as the first in an active and methodical progression to strengthen the LasikPlus brand and clarify our messages, with a goal of reinvigorating our direct-to-consumer programs."
Prior to joining LCA-Vision, Mr. Celebrezze served for five years as CFO at First Transit Inc., a national public-transportation company with annual revenue of $400 million.
Founders, former execs file with SEC
In the second development, LCA-Vision founders and former executive managers Dr. Stephen Joffe, Craig Joffe, and Alan Buckey have filed an amendment to their Schedule 13D with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission saying they are considering actions to protect their investment and "rescue" the company.
The group previously filed a 13D disclosing ownership of 11.4% of LCA-Vision, Inc. Dr. Joffe is the founder and former Chairman and CEO of LCAV; his son Craig Joffe is the former COO and General Counsel and served as its Interim CEO from March-November 2006; Alan Buckey is the former Executive VP of Finance and CFO. The three worked together as the executive management team of LCAV to grow the market capitalization of the company in excess of 1000% from 2003-2006.
The filing states that their actions were prompted by "the systematic and dramatic destruction of the shareholder, physician and employee value" they had worked together to create. They note that LCAV's share price has fallen over 90% in the two years since Steve Straus was appointed CEO of LCAV by its Board of Directors.
In a letter to the Chairman of the Board of Directors dated November 21, 2008, and filed with the amendment to their Schedule 13D, they stated, "As the founders and former executive management team of LCAV that led the Company to its past successes, we feel financially, ethically, and reputationally compelled to help rescue LCAV before it implodes," and argued, "we have the unique experience and know-how to help get the Company back on track." Dr. Joffe emphasized the need to have a Board of Directors and executive management team with the insights, experience, and passion to lead the Company and better serve its shareholders, physicians, employees, and patients.
LCA-Vision Inc. operates 77 LasikPlus fixed-site laser vision correction centers in 33 states and 59 markets in the United States and a joint venture in Canada.