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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

International Game Technology exec exits; analyst imagines shake-ups

4 September 2008

RENO, Nevada -- The No. 2 executive at International Game Technology resigned Wednesday, leaving one Wall Street analyst speculating that more shake-ups are pending at the slot machine manufacturing giant.

Reno-based IGT announced the resignation of Chief Operating Officer Steve Morro in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Morro, who joined IGT in August 1988, had been COO since June 2007.

No reason was given for the resignation, which is effective Sept. 27. According to the filing, Morro will remain with IGT as a nonexecutive employee. IGT Chairman and CEO TJ Matthews will assume the COO's duties.

IGT spokesman Ed Rogich said Wednesday the company wouldn't comment beyond the SEC filing. During the company's third-quarter earnings conference call in July, Matthews said the company was looking at continuing restructuring efforts within the company.

IGT has faced several challenges in the past year. The company's stock price has lost roughly 50 percent of its value in the last 12 months on the New York Stock Exchange and the slot machine maker has faced stiff competition from gaming equipment rivals Bally Technologies and WMS Industries.

IGT has also been working toward a rollout of a highly anticipated server-based gaming system.

Goldman Sachs gaming analyst Steven Kent said Morro's resignation was a surprise because investors "viewed him favorably as a thoughtful member of the management team."

Kent's concern is that IGT's management has been left relatively thin. The company has been seeking a new chief financial officer for more than a year. Former Chief Financial Officer Maureen Mullarkey officially submitted her resignation in June 2007. Daniel Siciliano was named IGT's interim principal financial officer at the time.

However, Kent said investors may view any type of restructuring program favorably.

Morro had been one of IGT's longest-serving executives. He had served as president of the gaming division since 2005, responsible for all areas of its North America operations including sales, product development, engineering and manufacturing.

Analysts had praised IGT in July following the third quarter, even though the slot maker missed earnings estimates. IGT has been buying back stock with almost 13 million shares still available for purchase under the company's plan.

Shares of IGT closed Wednesday at $21.68, down $1.45, or 0.32 percent, on the New York Stock Exchange.

International Game Technology exec exits; analyst imagines shake-ups is republished from