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LI holding company removes CEO; stock drops

Standard Diversified in Mineola has ousted the CEO,

Standard Diversified in Mineola has ousted the CEO, and the board chairman will step up as interim chief. The company posted a 28 percent revenue increase for all of 2018 but a 77 percent decrease in net income. Its shares fell Monday.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

Standard Diversified Inc. shares fell more than 5 percent Monday after a government filing said the Mineola holding company's board of directors had removed chief executive Ian Estus.

Standard Diversified's stock declined 5.5 percent to $18.13. Twelve months ago shares were trading at $10.20.

A spokesman said in an email the company would not "have any comment on the exit" except that board chairman Gregory H.A. Baxter was appointed interim CEO. 

The company, which owns insurance and display-advertising units as well as a stake in a maker of non-cigarette tobacco and vape products, issued the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission after the market close Friday.

Estus' duties "were reassigned by the board of directors" and he no longer serves in any position at the company, the filing said.

Estus, who served as president and CEO since June 2017, said in a telephone interview he was unable to comment on the departure. "I can't say anything," he said.

The company has a 50.3 percent stake in publicly traded Turning Point Brands Inc., a Louisville, Kentucky-based maker of Zig-Zag rolling papers and leaf wraps, vaping devices and pods and CBD products.

Baxter has served as a director at Standard Diversified since October 2015 and as executive chairman since June 2017. He also sits on the board of Turning Point Brands.

In the year ended Dec. 31, the company posted a 28 percent revenue increase to $365.8 million, but a 77.1 percent decrease in net income to $2.4 million.

Standard Diversified said it had higher expenses in 2018 related to costs of acquisitions and general and administrative costs at its insurance and Turning Point Brands units.  

Standard Diversified's largest shareholder is Manhattan-based hedge fund Standard General LP, with 69.3 percent of shares, according to a tally by Bloomberg.

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