End of Family Reign at Comverse

The end of the family reign at Comverse Technology (Nasdaq:CMVT) is approaching. Zvi Alexander, father of chairman and CEO Kobi Alexander, and Shaula Alexander Yemini - Kobi's sister, will not be submitting for renewal of their board positions at year-end.

That appears in documents Comverse filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission ahead of its shareholders assembly, scheduled for December 3 in New York.

The board will consist of Kobi Alexander; Itsik Danziger, Comverse's president; John H. Friedman of Easton Capital Corporation; Francis Girard, an external adviser to the company and cofounder of Boston Technology, which Comverse acquired; Ron Hiram, a cofounder of Telesoft Israel; Sam Oolie, the chairman of Nofire and founder of Oolie Enterprises; and William Sorin, the company's secretary general.

CFO David Kreinberg says the retirement of Yemini and Zvi Alexander is intended merely to make the board confirm with regulations governing the ratio between external and internal directors, or people close to the company's chiefs.

"To comply with regulations, it was decided that Zvi and Shaula would not be elected financing round another term, even though we are sure that in the long run they would contribute a lot to the company and increase its value for shareholders," Kreinberg said.

Dr Yemini, a former manager at IBM and currently the president and CEO of Smarts (Systems Management Arts, a Comverse subsidiary launched in 1993), joined the board in 1987. Zvi Alexander, a well-known figure from Israel's energy industry, served on the board from 1989. Hiram is also a director for Smarts.

Merrill Lynch analysts Ilana Treston, Tal Liani and Tania Jovanovic had written that in recent years, Comverse made several mistakes, including its belated entry into MMS - multimedia messaging. The analysts postulated that the company's board might have provided inadequate guidance to the management, and added that the board lacked deep knowledge of the company's industry. Another board might have had better understanding of the market environment, the analysts wrote.

Kreinberg firmly denied that the Merrill report had anything to do with the decision. The company could have increased its number of directors on the board by four in order to comply with the regulations, but did not deem that to be suitable, Kreinberg said, adding that he did not agree with the main points of the Merrill review.