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Friday, January 25, 2002
Board of directors votes to remove the fired president from the panel
Optical Cable boots Kopstein

The board of directors did not name anyone to fill Bob Kopstein's seat but said they are talking to candidates.

By JEFF STURGEON
THE ROANOKE TIMES



Bob Kopstein lost his seat on the board of directors of Optical Cable Corp. Thursday, ousted by the same colleagues who fired him from the company's top job late last year.

Company president Neil Wilkin announced the decision without explanation.

Kopstein climbed to the top of Roanoke County-based Optical Cable in six years during the 1980s and remained there for 12. He skidded down the ladder in a matter of months, his grip on power destroyed by disclosures about risky stock market investments that wounded his company and its shareholders.

Kopstein will hit bottom with a potentially humiliating thud: He goes off the board at the annual shareholder meeting, which he has chaired since the company first sold stock to the public in 1996. The meeting is set for March 12 at Hotel Roanoke.

Wilkin said Kopstein and the company are still discussing whether he'll become a consultant, a position the company invited him to consider. He was fired as president and chief executive officer and stripped of his chairman-of-the-board title Dec. 3.

Also pending is the dispensation of his company stock, which he said totaled 17.9 million shares on Dec. 31. That technically gives him 32 percent ownership of Optical Cable. However, stock brokerages have claimed the shares, saying Kopstein did not repay trading loans, and are expected by shareholders to sell the pledged shares on the stock market. The stock closed Thursday at $1.29 a share, compared with a year-ago price of $16.75.

Thursday, Kopstein gathered with board members to pick a slate of nominees for the 2002-03 board of directors. A board majority agreed to the re-election of the existing board, minus Kopstein, Wilkin said. Although shareholders will cast ballots, the board seats will be uncontested.

Earlier this month, Kopstein tried to persuade the board to stage a contested race and let him nominate board members. But the board chose instead to continue to determine its own makeup, a tradition established by Kopstein.

The continuing board members will be Wilkin; Luke Huybrechts, senior vice president of sales; Ken Harber, vice president of finance; and Randy Frazier and John Holland, Roanoke Valley businessmen.

They'll lead Optical Cable, a $60-million company that produces about 10 percent of the world's short-haul, fiber-optic cable, into yet more challenging times.

The company is coming off its first money-losing year with its stock price depressed for reasons related to Kopstein's financial transactions and shareholder lawsuits pending against both Kopstein and the company. Meanwhile, the communications industry is in a slowdown along with the rest of the economy.

Shareholders and Optical Cable's 200 employees are eager to see results of the company's first quarter of 2002, which ends Jan. 31.

The board did not name anyone to Kopstein's board seat. Wilkin said the board could grow to as many as nine directors, but that there is no timetable for making additions. "We've already had a lot of contact with people. I have half a dozen names."
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