Cardtronics Inc. said today that CEO Jack M. Antonini has left the company and its board. Fred R. Lummis, Cardtronics' chairman, has become the Houston ATM operator's interim CEO until a permanent successor is found. In a press release, Lummis described Antonini's departure: "Jack and the board have mutually decided that it would be in the best interests of the company to bring in a new CEO with a fresh perspective on how to capitalize on our many strengths and further develop our strategic direction," Lummis said in the statement. Cardtronics did not return calls for comment. Lummis praised Antonini's role in the company's growth, though Cardtronics has been reporting losses since at least 2007 and its stock plummeted in November after its third-quarter earnings fell short of analysts' estimates and it cut its earnings guidance. The company's stock was trading above $5 a share in early November but opened today at $1.28. When reporting third-quarter results (CardLine, 11/6/08), Cardtronics said its business had been disrupted by Hurricane Ike's path through Texas, where it operates many ATMs, and that it was having problems in the United Kingdom, where operating issues and regulations about publicizing its fees were taking a toll on profits. The company attributed some of its losses to the costs of storing cash in ATMs. The U.K. operations also drove down results in the fourth quarter, when a writedown of goodwill associated with that business led to a $57.9 million loss, compared to a loss of $7 million a year earlier. Overall revenue rose 2%, to $118.2 million in the fourth quarter. "Over the last few years, their net revenue has been up, but they've continued to operate at a loss, and the losses ... have just gotten worse," says Nicole Sturgill, the research director for delivery channels at TowerGroup Inc., a Needham, Mass.-based independent research firm owned by MasterCard Inc. She says the discrepancy is indicative of Antonini's management style: He expanded the company by taking risks that brought in more money and made Cardtronics the top nonbank ATM deployer but this added large expenses, too. Though the stock has suffered since the November earnings report, Sturgill says, "I don't know that he's being punished, necessarily, for the stock prices because what company's stock price isn't down right now?" More likely, she says, he has brought the company to a point where its position is sustainable and new leadership is needed to trim costs.

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