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CEO demoted at Swisher Hygiene

swisher
DIEDRA LAIRD - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com
FILE - Swisher CEO Thomas Byrne in his office in Piedmont Town Center. He's trying to reinvent a company that's had a meteoric rise and fall and is facing shareholder lawsuits. Is former Charlotte darling company Swisher Hygiene poised for a rebound, or set for more trouble? Diedra Laird - dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Swisher Hygiene, the troubled Charlotte-based company that offers sanitization services and cleaning chemicals, has a new chief executive officer – the company’s third in as many years.

William Pierce, a member of the board of directors, was named the company’s new CEO after the company said CEO Tom Byrne was moved back to his previous job of executive vice president Monday. Pierce is a senior vice president of Huizenga Holdings, the company owned by billionaire Florida businessman Wayne Huizenga.

“Tom has done an admirable job guiding Swisher over the past 13 months,” Pierce said in a statement. “The Company will build on the foundation Tom has laid.”

Byrne led the company for a little more than a year. He was initially named interim CEO, then named to the job permanently in February.

Last month, Byrne told the Observer about his plans to turn the company around after a series of legal troubles and money-losing quarters.

“I am proud of what we were able to accomplish during this period in Swisher’s history and I believe the company is well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities,” Byrne said in a statement Monday.

Huizenga and business partner Steve Berrard bought Swisher, which was founded in Charlotte in the 1980s, in 2004. Their plan was to create a cleaning and hygiene conglomerate by buying dozens of smaller businesses for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Swisher employs about 100 people in its SouthPark-area headquarters. The Wall Street Journal named Swisher the “most acquisitive” business in North America in 2011 after its buying spree.

The plan hit a snag, however, when a former employee raised concerns about Swisher’s accounting last year. The company told investors that its financial statements could no longer be relied on, and its stock price fell sharply.

The company started an internal audit, and has disclosed that investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission and Charlotte-based federal prosecutors have contacted Swisher seeking more information. Swisher also faces federal lawsuits from shareholders who allege the company artificially inflated its stock price.

Swisher’s shares rose 1.35 percent to 77 cents..

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