%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:; AUDIO:%)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ Shares of Bausch & Lomb Inc. fell 3 percent Friday after an Internet columnist revealed that a company news release falsely claimed chief executive Ronald Zarrella graduated from business school.
In announcing Zarrella’s appointment as CEO last November, Bausch & Lomb said he graduated from New York University’s Stern School of Business in 1978. Zarrella did attend the MBA program from 1972 to 1976 but left without graduating, the company acknowledged Friday.
The inaccuracy also appeared on Zarrella’s resume when he was hired by General Motors Corp. in 1994.
Bausch & Lomb shares dropped almost 7 percent in early trading after the error was disclosed by Herb Greenberg, a columnist at TheStreet.com. The company posted a corrected biography on its Web site.
By the close, its shares were down $1.01 to $31.48 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
``I’m embarrassed that this incorrect information has appeared in some of our published materials on my background,″ Zarrella said in a statement. ``Clearly it’s my obligation to proofread such things carefully and ensure their accuracy.″
The company declined to say whether the error would be investigated further. ``If there’s anything further to report, clearly we’ll put something out,″ said spokeswoman Margaret Graham. She said the company did not know how the error occurred.
Two weeks ago, Veritas Software Corp. forced its chief financial officer to resign after learning he lied about his education. After getting an e-mail tip, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company discovered that Kenneth Lonchar, its CFO since 1997, had fabricated some of his academic credentials, including a Stanford University MBA that he never received.
Zarrella, 53, succeeded William Carpenter, who resigned in September 2001 amid slowing demand for contact lenses and laser eye surgery equipment in the United States.
A native of Waterbury, Conn., Zarrella had previously served as the company’s president and chief operating officer but moved to General Motors in 1994, where he ascended to chairman and president of GM North America.
GM spokeswoman Brenda Rios said the error appeared on his resume and on a news release the automaker issued when it hired him. It also showed up on a news release when Zarrella became president and chief operating officer at Bausch & Lomb in February 1993.
Bausch & Lomb’s lead director, William Waltrip, who was chairman and chief executive in 1996, expressed confidence in Zarrella.
In appointing him to the helm, ``we knew, based on his previous tenure with the company, that he is a person of highest integrity and he would offer outstanding leadership to the organization. He’s certainly doing that,″ Waltrip said.
The company posted sharply lower third-quarter earnings Thursday because of restructuring charges and asset writeoffs but reported a 12 percent jump in contact-lens revenues.
Bausch & Lomb, which came out with the first soft contact lens 26 years ago, lost ground in that market after Johnson & Johnson’s introduction of frequent-replacement lenses in the mid-1990s.
Under Zarrella, the company has eliminated 1,150 jobs and shut down plants in Miami, Spain and South Korea involved in making rigid gas permeable, or hard, contact lenses as it switches resources into making planned-replacement and disposable lenses.