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Management shuffles again at ailing Maui Land & Pine


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POSTED: Saturday, May 16, 2009

Struggling Maui Land & Pineapple Co. is looking for its third chief executive in six years to lead the company.

Robert Webber, who took over leadership of the company in January, announced his resignation yesterday. The company's most recent executive shake-up comes less than a month after the company reported a $13.2 million drop in the first quarter on top of last year's $79.4 million net loss.

It also closely tracked with MLP's decision in February to implement its third mass layoff in less than two years.

In an effort to remain profitable as the economy has slumped, the company eliminated 100 positions from its Kapalua resort and corporate offices and implemented a 10 percent wage reduction for its remaining work force.

Webber's resignation, which becomes effective on Friday, is the most recent in a string of executive changes at the company dating back to 2003 when President and Chief Executive Gary Gifford retired and Chairman Richard Cameron decided to give up his title but remain on the board. Other notable departures and new assignments at MLP have included the retirement of Paul Meyer, the company's executive vice president of finance, and of Don Young, who was president and CEO of MLP subsidiary Kapalua Land Co., and the shift of Doug Schenk from president of subsidiary Maui Pineapple Co. to consultant of a new MLP business unit.

Webber, who joined MLP in 2006, was tapped to lead the 100-year-old company in November when David Cole, the company's former chairman, president and chief executive, stepped down and became a company director and MLP's representative on the Hawaii BioEnergy and Hawaii Superferry boards. At the same time, MLP appointed Warren Haruki the current president and CEO of Kauai-based Grove Farm Co. and the former head of GTE Hawaiian Tel/Verizon Hawaii, chairman of the struggling company. Haruki has now been named interim CEO while MLP completes its search for a new leader.

The board also appointed John Durkin as chief financial officer in April to fill the void left when Webber assumed the role of CEO. Durkin, who was recruited by Haruki, recently came to Hawaii by way of Japan where he worked for several large firms.

Webber, who has an MBA from Harvard, served as president and chief financial officer of a publicly traded technology services company headquartered in California before joining MLP. He said he is leaving MLP to pursue other opportunities.

“;We have accomplished much in the past three years in a difficult external environment, and it has been a pleasure to serve with my colleagues at MLP and Kapalua,”; said Webber. “;As the company continues to restructure and cut costs, it is appropriate to streamline and clarify leadership, and the time is right for me to transition and pursue other opportunities.”;

It's been a tough few years for the Kahului-based company, which has laid off hundreds of workers and replaced its top management. After a dismal fourth quarter, the company agreed to sell the Plantation Course, a stop on the PGA Tour, for $50 million to pay down debt.