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NexTone Nixes Management

CHICAGO -- NXTComm -- NexTone Communications Inc. said two senior executives stepped down ahead of NXTcomm, which some see as a sign that the company might be looking for a buyer. (See NexTone Names Chair.)

NexTone announced that Chairman and CEO Malik Khan relinquished his duties on the eve of the show. NexTone president and COO Yousef Javadi also elected to leave the company, concurrent with Khan's departure.

The company announced David Walsh, who is a partner at NexTone investor One Equity Partners and has been on NexTone's board since 2005, will take over as executive chairman.

Walsh is no stranger to telecom, having served as president and COO of Global Crossing (Nasdaq: GLBC) and founding IXnet, IPC Communications, and Voyager Networks. As a partner at OEP, JP Morgan's private equity arm, Walsh also serves as Chairman of Vercuity and sits on the boards of Last Mile Communications and Reef Point Systems Inc. .

Heavy Reading analyst Joe McGarvey says the management change could have come after VCs and board members got tired of being left in the dust while fellow VOIP vendors Acme Packet Inc. (Nasdaq: APKT), Sonus Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SONS), and Veraz Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: VRAZ) all went public. "I think at some point there were expectations of a public event, like an IPO, and the management didn't deliver on that."

In particular, NexTone's progress has been particulary evident in light of a successful IPO and revenue growth from direct competitor Acme Packet, which, like NexTone, sells Session Border Controller (SBC) software and hardware into the carrier market. (See IPO News: Acme Soars, Neuf Preps .) Some think the peculiar timing of the announcement might signal that NexTone is in play. Seamus Hourihan, vice president of marketing and product management at Acme Packet, said Monday night that he wouldn't be surprised if NexTone was looking for a buyer. With two senior executives stepping down, he said it was "common sense" that the company would be fielding offers.

McGarvey thinks the timing of the announcement may have even been strategic. "Why make this announcement now, as opposed to a Friday afternoon [when no one is watching the news]? Well, I think it's a good time to put out a banner and say 'We're looking for a buyer,' " McGarvey says.

There's also the question of who might be interested in acquiring NexTone, if the company is in fact looking for a buyer.

One issue may be the amount of return investors would be looking for from a potential buyer. Still, McGarvey says, "there's been a lot of money invested in this company, but if the price is right, someone will be interested in them."

Light Reading could not reach NexTone representatives for comment, despite numerous attempts. NexTone also postponed a previously scheduled meeting at the show.

— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading

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