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Openwave boots CEO - ever so slightly

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Openwave today formed a committee to consider a possible sale of the company and also announced its CEO is stepping down.

David Peterschmidt will be replaced by Robert Vrij, previously the executive VP of worldwide field operations. Peterschmidt will continue to serve on the board of directors and will also chair the committee that that's trying to resuscitate the the company.

News of his involvement on the committee wasn't well received in all quarters. Harbinger Capital Partners, Openwave's second-biggest shareholder, publicly objected on the grounds the Peterschmidt received only a 42-per cent vote of confidence in a recent shareholder election.

Investors weren't sure what to make of the day's news. Shares initially rose but ultimately fell 2.1 per cent.

Openwave, the world leader in mobile phone browsers, will retain Merrill Lynch to advise it on a sale, or otherwise find a way to prop up its sagging stock, which has lost more than half its value in the last year.

Today's action comes as a response to Openwave shareholders electing a board candidate put up by Harbinger — which owns about 10 per cent of the company's shares — instead of the company's own nominee. Harbinger has been critical of Openwave, alleging its management has been misleading investors.

But Openwave failed to pacify New York-based Harbinger. "By appointing Peterschmidt to chair this committee, the board has put its interests and that of the senior management above those of shareholders and the company," Harbinger Managing Director Howard Kagan said.

In February, Openwave acquired WiderWeb, a small UK software developer. The acquisition provided Openwave with software that can re-format web content for mobile phones in a compressed XHTML/MP format, opening access to the internet on mass market mobile devices. ®

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