Safeguard Scientifics promotes new chief

Peter J. Boni
Peter J. Boni
Posted: October 27, 2012

Safeguard Scientifics chief financial officer Stephen J. Zarrilli, 51, will replace Peter J. Boni, 67, as chief executive of the Wayne-based company, which invests in small software and biotech firms, effective in May, Safeguard said Thursday.

In a statement, board chairman Andrew E. Lietz credited Boni with having "revitalized and refocused the company post-Internet bubble" and boosting returns to investors despite the stock market crash of 2008. He added that Zarrilli had worked closely with Boni, "setting the stage" for growth and diversification.

Safeguard, started by investor Warren "Pete" Musser in the 1950s, has a long history of investing in small and emerging companies in sectors favored by the stock market, and in partnership with other investment groups.

Its share value rises and falls with the perceived future profitability and stock-market value of the companies it backs, which under Boni have been concentrated in the biotech and business-software industries.

Current Safeguard holdings include 18 companies. In the Philadelphia area, these include Conshohocken-based NuPathe, a painkiller developer that has consistently traded below its 2010 initial stock-offering price; King of Prussia-based online job recruiter Beyond.com, and Downingtown-based business-software application platform ThingWorx Inc.

Before joining Safeguard, Zarrilli served as chief financial officer at Blue bell-based Fiberlink Communications Corp. from 2001 to 2005 and at Safeguard-backed U.S. Interactive Inc. from 1994 to 1998, where he was also chief executive in 1999-2000.

Under Boni, publicly traded Safeguard invested $315 million in more than 20 companies, and collected $643 million from deals to sell successful investments to buyers including Oracle, Eli Lilly & Co., Shire Pharmaceuticals, McKesson, and GE Healthcare.

Safeguard shares rose 6 cents to close at $15.80 Thursday on news of Boni's pending retirement and a weak third-quarter earnings report.

That's below last year's high of $21, but above the $10-a-share range where Safeguard was trading in 2005, when Boni took the top job.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, @PhillyJoeD.

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