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Cone Mills Director Fights Financial Plan

NEW YORK — A dissident Cone Mills Corp. investor, who in 1999 launched an unsuccessful bid to take the company private, is on the warpath again.<br><br>Mark Kozberg, who now serves as a director with the Greensboro, N.C.-based firm, said in a...

NEW YORK — A dissident Cone Mills Corp. investor, who in 1999 launched an unsuccessful bid to take the company private, is on the warpath again.

This story first appeared in the February 6, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Mark Kozberg, who now serves as a director with the Greensboro, N.C.-based firm, said in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission that he has assembled a group of investors who together hold an 8.9 percent stake in the mill. The group opposes Cone’s recently disclosed plan to recapitalize.

The group has formed a corporation called MK Acquisition Inc., which on Thursday hired Innisfree M&A Inc. to advise it on getting in touch with Cone stockholders, according to the Wednesday SEC filing.

The group intends to nominate a slate of three additional directors, which would give it four seats on the 11 member board, including the one Kozberg holds, through 2004.

As reported last month, Cone said that to raise funds to drive its Mexican expansion it would sell $27 million in convertible debt to a fund managed by W.L. Ross & Co. The notes could be converted into Cone Mills shares. The Kozberg group argues the deal would dilute the stock and therefore be bad for shareholders.

Cone currently has 25.8 million shares outstanding. The Kozberg group together holds 2.3 million shares.

Cone officials declined to comment Wednesday, citing a quiet period before the release of the firm’s fiscal 2002 results, which are expected out today. Kozberg could not be reached for comment.

However, in a January statement, he said of the financial plan, “There is no compelling reason why Cone Mills, which has returned to profitability and continues to reduce debt, should, at this time, be severely diluting its shareholders at a price below the lowest price the stock has traded since its IPO.”

Cone shares closed at $1.62, up 11 cents, in New York Stock Exchange trading Wednesday.

The three directors proposed by the Kozberg group in its SEC filing are Charles Barry, described as a Minneapolis businessman; Randall Kominsky, said to be chief investment officer of CRP Holdings Inc., a private investment firm, and Edward S. Adams, identified as the Howard E. Buhse professor of law and finance and co-director of Kommerstad Center for Business Law & Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota.

Cone’s current board includes two insiders: chairman and former chief executive officer Dewey Trogdon and current president and ceo John Bakane. The other nine directors are outsiders.