Openwave Changes Chief Executive, Hires Merrill Lynch

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Openwave Systems Inc., a software maker that's being sued by a shareholder over management, named Robert Vrij its chief executive officer, replacing David Peterschmidt, and hired Merrill Lynch & Co. as adviser.

Vrij, 43, will take office immediately as CEO and president, Redwood City, California-based Openwave said in a statement. Peterschmidt, who has been criticized by shareholder Harbinger Capital Partners for missing earnings forecasts, will remain on the board.

Peterschmidt will lead a strategic alternatives committee as Openwave works with Merrill Lynch to explore options, including the possible sale of the company. Openwave's software is used by mobile phones from companies such as Sprint Nextel Corp., Motorola Inc. and AT&T Inc.'s Cingular Wireless.

``That installed base with technology in the network and on the handset in our minds is worth a lot to several companies servicing the telecom industry,'' JPMorgan analyst Sterling Auty wrote in a note to investors today.

Harbinger, which owns 11 percent of Openwave stock, sued the company in December, accusing it of trying to block the investor's nomination of two board candidates.

Shareholder Objection

By appointing Peterschmidt to chair the committee vote, the board ``has put its interests and that of the senior management above those of shareholders and the company,'' Harbinger said in a statement.

``The committee as proposed should not be authorized to make decisions relating to the strategic future of Openwave,'' said Howard Kagan, a Harbinger managing director, in the statement. Harbinger's Associate General Counsel John W. McCullough didn't return a telephone message.

Openwave lowered its forecast for third-quarter revenue to $65 million to $70 million for the period ending March 31, after saying in January it expected $85 million to $90 million. It withdrew its forecast for fourth-quarter revenue of $90 million to $95 million.

The stock fell 19 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $8.71 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. It has lost 57 percent in the past 12 months.

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