L&H co-founders give up top positions

Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products NV (L&H) announced several changes in its top management on Thursday. Co-founders Jo Lernout and Pol Hauspie have stepped down from their positions as co-chairmen and managing directors.

The executive changes are “steps towards resolving recent controversies affecting the company and to maintain its leadership position in the emerging speech and language technology markets”, the Belgian speech-recognition software developer said in a statement.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating L&H’s business and accounting practices.

In a separate statement L&H announced that it will not make the mid-November deadline for filing its Form 10-Q with the SEC for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, 2000. The company said it expects to restate its financial statements for the periods 1998, 1999 and for the first half of 2000 due to “certain errors and irregularities” uncovered in its ongoing audit.

In addition L&H said it believes the revenue for the third quarter will be at least US$40 million below its previously published range of $165 to $185 million.

John Duerden, who was CEO of L&H on Aug. 24, will become sole managing director. Duerden has also been asked to appoint a new chief financial officer (CFO). Carl Dammekens, the current CFO, will be taking on another position within the company.

Lernout will now serve as vice chairman of the L&H board of directors and will chair the company’s technology advisory committee. Hauspie is taking a leave of absence from the board for medical reasons, the company said.

Also stepping down as managing director is Nico Willaert. He will remain on the board of directors.

Roel Pieper, formerly vice-chairman of L&H, has been appointed chairman of the board. Dutch-born Pieper is a general partner of New York-based Insight Capital Partners and has served as CEO of Tandem Computer Inc. and as executive vice president of Royal Philips Electronics NV.

In a joint statement Pieper and Duerden said they are determined “to ensure that the company’s financial information is completely accurate.”

The company also announced the establishment of a new executive committee, consisting of Pieper, Duerden, Lernout, and one other independent director, to be announced shortly. The executive committee will advise management on a range of issues.

Lernout & Hauspie, with dual headquarters in Ieper, Belgium and Burlington, Mass., can be reached at http://www.lhsl.com/.