The smoke rises at Emblaze as board jettisons chief executive

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The Independent Online

Emblaze, the London-listed Israeli technology group, is to oust chief executive Eli Reifman in a peaceful boardroom coup.

It is believed that the board of Emblaze, headed by chairman Naftali Shani, will replace Mr Reifman with chief financial officer Guy Bernstein, as it bids to restore its tarnished reputation with shareholders.

Emblaze's share price has lagged significantly behind the rest of the FTSE over the past six months and closed on Friday at 124.75p, well below the 175p level at which it was trading over the summer.

Mr Bernstein has been running the company on a day-to- day basis for more than six months. He is regarded by analysts as having good operational skills. By contrast, Mr Reifman is widely seen as a strategic thinker who had taken his eye off the company's bottom-line performance.

Mr Reifman will be retained by the company in a newly created role of president. He will continue to hold a boardroom seat.

An institutional investor in Emblaze said: "It is good news that Eli Reifman is being sent on his way. But I am not sure that it is advisable to retain his services at the company in another capacity."

It is believed that Emblaze has drawn up a shortlist of banks to advise on the possible flotation of Emblaze Mobile, its handset design and distribution division. The listing has been pencilled in for the first half of 2007. Emblaze may opt for a float on the Nasdaq index in New York, or Euronext, the pan-European exchange, or on the FTSE. Analysts believe the mobile business could be worth between $300m and $400m (£153m to £204m).

The Israeli group has a mixed track record in spinning off different businesses. In October 2004 it demerged Orca Interactive, a TV software business, and in February 2005 it spun off Adamind, another software division whose share price has plummeted from around 140p in March to just 21p on Friday.

Emblaze sold its entire stake in Adamind in February, just prior to the dramatic drop in the share price.

A spokesman for Emblaze declined to comment on any boardroom shake-up.