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All Eyes Are On Le Bow Here, Too

Inside Wall Street


Is Ben LeBow in or out? No, we aren't talking about RJR Nabisco. We mean his big stake in a much smaller company--MAI Systems (NOW), a provider of customized information systems to small and midsize factories, hotels, and casinos. According to an MAI registration with the Securities & Exchange Commission in November, LeBow was going to sell his 2 million shares--a 29.2% stake. As it turns out, he did no such thing. In late February, LeBow announced he had sold 297,000 shares--at 61/2 to 73/8 a share--dropping his holding to 24.7%. Some investors are intrigued. They know LeBow will not unload at a low price. So they want to stay tuned and possibly reap a windfall--as they suspect LeBow will do when he makes his move.

LeBow became chairman of MAI in 1984 and was CEO from 1990 to 1993, when the company went into Chapter 11. MAI emerged from bankruptcy in 1994 after a court-assisted restructuring. Lebow resigned from the board in December, 1994. Some pros speculate LeBow may be waiting to sell his shares to a big investor who wants to be a key stakeholder. If so, the stock could head higher.

Oppenheimer analyst Steven Major has a price target of 12 for the stock, based on a price-earnings ratio of 15 and his 1996 estimate of 81 cents a share. "Our estimate could prove conservative if the market accords MAI a higher p-e, based on the company's potential sales and earnings-growth rate," says Major. MAI's advantage, he says, lies in its 5,000 loyal customers dating back 35 years.BY GENE G. MARCIAL

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