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Robert Trigaux

Struggling Tampa company calls on Hugh McColl's advisory firm to explore possible sale




SRI Surgical Express (ticker symbol STRC) traded as high a $6.50 a share this past year but now hovers just above $3.

hughmccoll.jpgWake up and good morning. A publicly traded Tampa company called SRI Surgical Express, an 800-plus employee "supplier and reprocessor of reusable surgical linen and instrumentation" and a company that has reported annual losses since at least 2006, has hired an investment advisory firm to consider, among other things, whether to sell the business.

srisurgicallogo.The choice of the advisory firm? McColl Partners out of Charlotte, N.C., a firm founded and chaired by none other than Hugh McColl. Those who have been in Florida long enough should recall McColl as commercial banking's biggest swashbuckler of the 1980s and 1990s. The ex-Marine ran NCNB (North Carolina National Bank, later to become NationsBank and then Bank of America) and swooped into Florida, gobbling up enormous numbers of banks (including Florida's largest at the time, Barnett Banks) to become the biggest banking company in the state.

McColl retired as head of his Bank of America, at the time the biggest bank in the country though one now that is in deep trouble and planning to shed 30,000 jobs. Still, this posting is about McColl and Tampa's SRI Surgical Express, which has struggled with both red ink and a depressed stock price.

SRI, in a terse press release Wednesday, says its board of directors decided to "explore and evaluate strategic alternatives for SRI Surgical to enhance shareholder value, including a possible strategic alliance, merger or sale" of the company. The release does not specify why but we can guess. Although SRI recently cracked the $100 million mark in revenues, the company's struggled financially for many years. Obviously that can't go on forever.

Indeed, in a recent SEC filing, SRI Surgical said its access to financing, called a credit facility, was set to expire last month on August 7, adding "we might not be able to renew the facility with our current lender or secure another credit facility before this one matures." That credit facility requires the company to maintain a certain minimum level of financial strength that in certain past quarters the business says it has been unable to sustain. It's not clear how much this on-and-off financial compliance factored into SRI's decision to at least consider a sale of the company.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times 

[Last modified: Thursday, September 15, 2011 7:25am]


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