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Another management change at Callaway

Callaway Golf Co. said Monday its president and chief operating officer had resigned, the second top management shake-up since August when Chairman William Baker took over as chief executive.

The Carlsbad, California-based company said the resignation of Patrice Hutin was effective immediately and that Baker would assume his responsibilities.

The move marked the latest in a series of changes at the golf equipment maker, which is aiming to regain share lost to rivals offering lower-priced models.

Callaway's former Chief Executive Ron Drapeau, who took over from company founder Ely Callaway, resigned in August under board pressure following a slump at the company known for its Big Bertha line of clubs.

Drapeau was replaced by board chairman Baker, a fast food entrepreneur and real-estate investment executive who had been the company's longest serving director.

Callaway said Hutin's departure was the last pending executive change as Baker seeks to turn around a company hurt by a steep drop in business in Japan and Europe and costs related to its acquisition of golf-ball maker Top Flite.

The Carlsbad, California-based company bought Top-Flite last year in a bid to reverse losses in its golf ball business.

"We are satisfied that the senior management team currently in place is strong and capable and we anticipate no further executive changes at this time," Ronald Beard, lead independent director on the Callaway board, said in a statement.

Carole Buyers, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets said tough price competition in the market for golf equipment could make Callaway's return to profitability a long haul.

"This is going to be a long round," said Buyers, who owns no Callaway shares. "A lot of what has happened has come to a head recently.

Callaway last month posted a loss for the third-quarter of $35.9 million compared to a year-earlier profit of $2.3 million due to the delay of new products and price reductions amid tough competition from rivals like Adidas-Salomon's TaylorMade. Sales declined by 16 percent to $128.5 million.

The company also said it would conduct a review of its business that would last through 2004 and stopped issuing financial forecasts as it attempts to reverse its slump.

Callaway shares closed up slightly at $10.78 on the New York Stock Exchange but down nearly 50 percent over the past year.

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