MiMedx Group held an annual shareholder meeting Monday, but barred press from attending. Pete Petit, the former CEO of the Marietta-based company contested the corporation’s slate of nominees for board seats. MATT KEMPNER / AJC

Marietta company’s former CEO loses battle to rejoin troubled business

One of Georgia’s most storied biotech leaders lost his bid to rejoin the troubled Marietta-based public company that he helped build into a business once valued at nearly $2 billion.

Preliminary vote counts at MiMedx Group’s shareholder meeting on Monday showed Parker “Pete” Petit, who turns 80 in August, fell short in his effort to return to the board of directors of the company. MiMedx uses placental tissue for a variety of products that treat everything from wounds to burns and orthopedic injuries.

Petit had been MiMedx’s chairman and chief executive officer until he was forced out last year. The company faced a torrent of questions about how it operated and whether it inappropriately manipulated reports of its financial results. Federal investigators are still examining MiMedx business practices, the company said. Petit, though, said he is concerned about the current board harming the business he led for years.

Petit told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Monday’s shareholder meeting that he expects to be questioned by investigators and that it is possible he could be charged. But he said, “I don’t think me or any of our management knowingly did anything illegal.”

“I’m innocent,” he said, “but I could be found guilty.”

For 37 years, Petit ran publicly traded companies in the healthcare and biotech industries in the Atlanta area, boosting his image as a business pioneer and creating wealth and jobs. He’s donated millions of dollars to local institutions, getting his name on biotech and sciences buildings at Georgia Tech and Georgia State University, as well as the football field at GSU stadium.

He served as the finance chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in Georgia in 2016, and he had ties with other powerful people, including U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who contacted the FBI about a complaint Petit filed against an investor. A spokesperson for Isakson wasn’t immediately available for comment Monday.

Asked whether he is concerned his reputation has been tarnished, Petit told the AJC, “I really don’t give a damn.”

He said he and his family hold 8 to 9 percent of MiMedx’s stock, which he believes makes them the company’s largest shareholder and represents the bulk of his personal net worth, though the stock’s price remain far below its past highs.

Petit said he spent close to $1 million in the last year in his legal battles with the company’s board.

In addition to Petit and two associates seeking positions on the board, he also tried unsuccessfully to force a second meeting to elect other allies who could give them majority control.

MiMedx issued a statement Monday saying: “The overwhelming support the company has received throughout this process is an unmistakable statement by MiMedx’s shareholders that it is time to move beyond the Pete Petit era and to focus again on MiMedx’s business and growth opportunities. With such strong support for our new CEO and Board members, we are hopeful that Mr. Petit will stand down from further actions that could distract the Company from its mission to serve patients and in turn create value for shareholders.”

Shareholder advisory services and MiMedx’s board bridled at Petit’s attempted return, which came in the wake of a sharply critical investigation by the company’s audit committee.

The committee alleged that Petit disregarded rules and set up a secret surveillance system to spy on employees and target whistleblowers, and that he and some other leaders “made material misstatements and omissions” to the company’s board, as well as to outside auditors and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Petit called the allegations misinformation and lies and has lambasted the current board for its performance.

Financial results for the company have been delayed for well over a year. And the board, which recently hired an outside auditor, has said it expects that it will have to restate years worth of financial reporting. MiMedx chairman Charles Evans told the AJC that he hopes audited financial results will be available later this year so the company can hold another shareholder meeting, possibly in late fall.

Press was barred from attending Monday’s meeting.

Shareholders who spoke with the AJC generally voiced hope the company can soon move beyond controversies.

“Their clouds are starting to dissipate,” said Benson Ross, an investor from New Jersey.

Phil Kobierowski of Marietta said because MiMedx hasn’t reported financial results, its situation remains murky. “I wish the truth would come out.”

The reporting issues led to MiMedx shares being removed from trading on Nasdaq last year. They now trade over the counter.

While Petit said he is unhappy that the current board kept control, he praised the three new directors he and his associates ran against. He said he’ll continue watching what the board does, but hopes other shareholders push for changes.

In the meantime, he blamed MiMedx’s controversies not on his actions or those of his former lieutenants but on some investors trying to distort the market. Because of those frustrations, he said, “I can absolutely assure you I will never run a public company again.”

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