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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the June 26, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Life in the Fast Lane

Exide Technologies — the world’s largest battery

maker — has been struggling since it moved 35 employees from Reading,

Pennsylvania, to the Carnegie Center nearly two years ago. First its board

chairman and CEO, Robert A. Lutz, decamped to return one of the big

three automakers, General Motors. Then, due to the recession, it suffered

a loss in orders for batteries from telecommunications and electric

utility companies. And last month it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

protection.

In this same time period three of its former executives — including

two from the Princeton area — were on trial for a fraud scandal

that surfaced in 1998. The scheme involved bribing a Sears Roebuck

buyer to sell batteries that were known to be defective. The former

chief financial officer, Flemington resident Alan E. Gauthier, 54,

pleaded guilty early in the trial. On Thursday, June 20, New Hope

resident Douglas Pearson, 58, was found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy

to commit wire fraud. Gauthier and Pearson could get as much as five

years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000

fine. Sentencing is scheduled for late July.

But apparently the company was also putting on a good corporate face.

In a case of unfortunate public relations timing, earlier this month

the Woodbridge-based Aztec Corporation issued a press release announcing

a prize for its design of Exide’s 24,000 square-foot headquarters

at the Carnegie Center. According to the release, Aztec used "lightwoods

and other light materials to create a fresh, new European corporate

image."

"The open area carpet became a focal point for creating a corporate

image evoking the energy base of the company — a custom carpet

of six-inch, tufted squares in alternating beige tones was designed

with a continuous wave flowing through the entire span of the carpet.

Also incorporated into the corporate headquarters design were dramatic

abstract copper sculptures flanking the reception desk, new windows

in the reception area overlooking a lily pond and Carnegie Center

Park, custom curved wood and glass-enclosed board room equipped with

the latest audio-videoconferencing equipment, and a fully appointed

executive pantry. In addition, a suite of executive offices was created

in the interior space allotting each executive their own private office

space and executive restroom."

Last week the bankruptcy court approved a $700,000 base salary and

as much in bonuses for Craig Muhlhauser, who has assumed the duties

of CEO and chairman. The company has $2.5 billion in debt, compared

to assets of $2 billion.

Exide Technologies, 210 Carnegie Center, Princeton

08540. Craig Muhlhauser, president and COO. 609-627-7200. Home

page: www.exideworld.com


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