Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Smith & Wesson chief quits over crime

Smith & Wesson chief quits over crime
Chairman of the nation's No. 2 gun maker resigns over past armed robbery; company names new chief.
February 27, 2004: 4:10 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - James Joseph Minder, chairman of handgun maker Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., resigned after a published report revealed he'd spent as much as 15 years in prison decades ago for armed robberies and a bank heist.

Smith & Wesson (SWB: up $0.11 to $1.65, Research, Estimates), the nation's second-largest gun manufacturer after Sturm Ruger (RGR: Research, Estimates), in a statement said Minder will stay on as an independent director.

Dennis Bingham, an independent Smith & Wesson board member since 2002, will assume the chairman role. Barry M. Monheit will also join the board and current board member Bob Scott will serve as vice-chairman.

"While recognizing the very serious mistakes in his early life, the board believes that Mr. Minder has led an exemplary life for 35 years

and has provided tremendous services to the community," the gun maker said in a statement.

"Based on this, and other successful business experience, the board believes he should and can continue to provide invaluable input to Smith & Wesson within both strategic planning and the ongoing drive toward operational excellence."

Minder's convictions were unknown to Smith & Wesson until the Arizona Republic newspaper chronicled Minder's criminal past earlier this month. Smith & Wesson is based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Republic article reported that Minder maintains he had never tried to cover up his past, and that the reason he failed to disclose his criminal past to Smith & Wesson earlier was because nobody had asked the question.

Minder, 74, had spent time in prison in the 1950s and 1960s for a string of armed robberies and an attempted prison escape, according to the Republic. During that time, the Detroit News said he was known for carrying a 16-gauge, sawed-off shotgun.

Minder was sentenced to 3-1/2 to 10 years in state prison for robbing a store while attending University of Michigan as a journalism student, he told the Republic.

Minder also told the paper that he turned his life around after finishing his prison sentence in 1969. He said he has spent his professional career trying to help kids after receiving a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering, a bachelor of arts in sociology and a master of arts in social work, all earned from the University of Michigan.

Minder, who served on the 152 year-old company's board since 2001, had run a successful non-profit agency serving delinquent and disabled Michigan youths for 20 years before retiring to Scottsdale in 1997, the Republic said.

Shortly before the Republic article was published, Smith & Wesson had named Minder as chairman, taking over the position from Roy Cuny, who remains on the board and continues to work as CEO and president of the company.

Cuny had been named to the top three posts in December, after Mitchell Saltz resigned as chairman and CEO. Also in December, Colt Melby stepped down as president amid a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the late filing of earnings statements. Top of page

-- Reuters contributed to the story