Cutera CEO, Executive Chairman Axed


Sheila Hopkins has been appointed as interim CEO and the search for a permanent replacement is underway.

Cutera, Inc. has fired CEO David Mowry and Executive Chairman Daniel Plants for alleged violations of their employment contracts.

Sheila Hopkins has been appointed as interim CEO and the search for a permanent replacement is underway.

Plants and Mowry called for a Special Meeting of Stockholders and the removal of Directors Gregory Barrett, Sheila Hopkins, Timothy O’Shea, Juliane Park and Janet Widmann. They stated that the board had become "factionalized" and these directors botched the company's succession planning when Mowry communicated his decision to leave in January.

Cutera said Mowry and Plants violated their employment agreements and fiduciary duties by disclosing information on the board's internal deliberations.

Mowry and Plants had issued public statements in their individual capacities before they were ousted.

David Mowry said:

“In early January, I communicated to the Board that I wished to begin a transition process to facilitate my retirement as CEO. The Board considered a number of its own members – including Sheila Hopkins, Juliane Park, Dan Plants and Janet Widmann – as potential candidates, but ultimately was not able to reach a suitable agreement with a qualified replacement. On February 22, the Board formed a committee to conduct an external search. Today, to my knowledge this committee has not even met once, has not established a job specification and has not selected a recruiting firm. From my perspective – despite the passage of many weeks – the Board is no closer to finding a replacement.

Out of serious concern regarding some of the interim ‘solutions’ the Board was openly considering as my replacement while the search was being conducted, on March 9, I offered to delay my retirement to minimize the disruption, confusion and instability to the business caused by the insertion of an ‘interim CEO’ or ‘Co-CEOs,’ and I advised the Board as such. The Board has failed to accept my proposal. In my opinion, the approach the Entrenched Directors have taken to these matters has been detrimental to the business and served no purpose other than to position certain Directors closer to the CEO title that they seem to covet for themselves.

Making matters worse, these critical deliberations around succession planning are being conducted during informal meetings held by a subset of the Board. It is disappointing to me that through the actions of the Entrenched Directors, the Board has reached such a level of dysfunction that critical decisions are not being made and vital initiatives are unable to move forward. As the Company’s CEO, I was particularly disturbed that the Entrenched Directors chose to repurpose a simple 8-K – that had been prepared by Company management and counsel in response to a request from our auditors – into the opening salvo of the public fight that they seem to prefer over a private resolution. They then chose to file the 8-K on April 7 with the SEC without Board approval and over the objections of several Directors.

While I have tried to remain neutral and focused on the long-term value creation strategy that we have been building at Cutera, I am now firmly convinced that our employees, customers and shareholders deserve better – which is why I have taken this action to demand the Special Meeting to refresh the composition of the Board.”

J. Daniel Plants stated:

“As an investor in Cutera for 10 years and one of its largest stockholders, I am deeply invested in the Company’s success. I have been heavily involved in the development of the new commercial model and product strategy that has the potential to be transformative for the Company and unlock substantial value for its shareholders. But the Board’s lack of transparency, attempted micromanagement and political behavior have become a major distraction for the Company and its leadership team. The failure to meaningfully progress on a CEO succession plan is just the most glaring indication that the Board’s agenda is now being driven by the Entrenched Directors, whose apparently personal priorities and allegiances – rather than what will deliver value for Cutera and its stakeholders – are motivating and guiding their actions.

When it became apparent that the state of the Board’s governance had become so corroded that it was impeding our ability to achieve performance objectives, I first sought to reach a constructive solution with my fellow Directors by pursuing a confidential internal dialogue directed toward a resolution. After scheduling a Board meeting with the express purpose of discussing a resolution of the concerns raised in my letter, the Entrenched Directors came to the meeting with no intent of having this discussion and had instead already engaged several defense advisors, despite having sought no Board authorization to do so. Moreover, on April 7, they then elected to issue a press release disclosing all of these matters publicly. They clearly prefer an expensive, public fight using shareholder dollars to an amicable resolution. In light of the Board’s actions, I am moving forward to allow shareholders the ability to have a direct say in who will represent them and steward their investment in the Company going forward.”

The Notices delivered by Mowry and Plants require that the Special Meeting be held within 60 days of the date of the Notice. The Notices further demand that the Company provide each Cutera stockholder entitled to vote with prompt written notice of the Special Meeting and that it act immediately to schedule it. 

Mr. Plants concludes: “We fully expect the Entrenched Directors to follow the law and advance the Special Meeting process and will take all appropriate action to ensure this happens.”

The letter sent by Mr. Plants to the entire Board on Monday, April 3, 2023, is included below:

J. Daniel Plants
Chairman, Board of Directors of Cutera, Inc.
3240 Bayshore Blvd.
Brisbane, California 94005

April 3, 2023

Members of the Board of Directors of Cutera, Inc.
3240 Bayshore Blvd.
Brisbane, California 94005

Dear Colleagues:

As you know, I have a long-term relationship with Cutera, Inc. (“Cutera” or the “Company). I joined the Board of Directors (the “Board”) in January 2015 and became Chairman of the Board (“Chairman”) in October of 2016, and assumed the additional responsibilities of Executive Chairman in May 2021.

I am also one of the Company’s largest and longest-tenured stockholders. Since 2013, my investment firm, Voce Capital Management LLC (“Voce”), has purchased significant amounts of Cutera’s common stock and convertible notes in open market purchases and through direct investments into the Company. When Cutera needed to raise equity during the height of the SARS-2 panic in April 2020, Voce served as the anchor tenant, committing ahead of time to purchase the largest allocation in the transaction, allowing the underwriters to market our participation and assist in the completion of the transaction under very difficult market conditions. We performed the same role in Cutera’s largest convertible notes financing, in May 2022, agreeing in advance to buy a large portion of the notes to support the deal’s successful execution. In total, I have invested more than $50 million in Cutera over the past decade. My current equity ownership of more than 1.2 million common shares (exclusive of my ownership of the convertible notes) exceeds 6% of the Company’s shares outstanding.

Since becoming Executive Chairman almost two years ago, I typically spend more than 20 hours per week working on Cutera-related matters. In addition to my ongoing responsibilities as Board Chairman, I’m onsite for a full day at Company headquarters every Tuesday, and often an additional day, depending on activity levels. I have also traveled extensively at the Company’s request, including multiple international trips, to meet with customers, employees and stockholders.

As Executive Chairman, I have taken the lead in identifying and developing Cutera’s long-term strategic vision. For the first time in the Company’s history, we now have a multi-year strategic plan with a cadence of targeted product launches; actionable plans to enter adjacent and new categories, expanding the Company’s total addressable market; and a financial model with the potential to fundamentally re-rate the Company and unleash significant stockholder value. The first phase of this plan has already been implemented through the innovative strategy for our breakthrough AviClear acne device and disruptive “placement-driven” commercial model. Every aspect of Cutera’s business, operations and financial model are being positively impacted as a result of this transformative strategy.

In my ten years as an investor and eight years on the Board, I have never been more committed to Cutera’s success. Given my long history of service to the Company; leadership role in developing its current strategy; and alignment through the substantial investment of capital, I have only one interest– to see Cutera succeed to the fullest extent possible for its customers, employees and, of course, stockholders. I have strong relationships with each of these key constituencies, built through years of my substantive involvement, and I remain personally committed to seeing Cutera deliver for all of them.

* * *

As convinced as I am of Cutera’s potential for future prosperity, I have concluded that the current state of Cutera’s corporate governance – and specifically the functioning of the Board – has devolved into such a deplorable condition that it will, until resolved, continue to impede the Company’s fulfillment of its goals and objectives. More specifically, the actions of certain members of the Board have led to an untenable situation requiring urgent corrective action.

Among my serious concerns:

  • Failed CEO succession planning. The selection of a CEO is any Board’s most important responsibility. Yet in recent months, the Board has lurched from one plan to another in its feckless effort to identify a successor to our present CEO, Dave Mowry. The Board’s shifting priorities and allegiances have lacked objectivity, transparency and rationality and, even worse, have yet to produce an actionable succession plan, leaving the Board factionalized and the Company exposed to needless instability and uncertainty.
  • Inability to make long-term decisions. The Board’s current paralysis has rendered the pursuit of long-term opportunities, both organic and inorganic, extremely difficult. The lack of clarity as to the long-term management of Cutera has also impeded the recruitment of senior talent throughout the organization.
  • Misapplications of basic corporate governance. In its effort to generate outcomes that suit the interests of its individual members, a subset of the Board has engaged in a series of ultra vires actions and decisions, attempting to control critical Board decisions through private conclaves rather than proper meetings of the Board, excluding Directors they deem unaligned with their self-interested agendas. This ignores Board processes prescribed in the amended and restated bylaws (the “Bylaws”) of the Company and well-established principles of Delaware corporate law.
  • Conflicts of interest. The same subset of Directors has permitted members of the Board they deem sympathetic to participate in crucial deliberations in which those Directors have a material financial and personal conflict of interest.
  • Misappropriation of corporate assets and machinery. Without proper authorization, certain members of the Board have commandeered Cutera’s outside counsel, drawing upon the Company’s law firm in their personal battle against other Directors, but doing so at the Company’s expense, and conflicting the Company’s lawyers in the process.
  • Micromanagement and operational interference. Individual members of the Board have engaged in officious conduct in operational and personnel decisions that are squarely within the province of management. Such behavior not only distracts and dilutes the time of senior management but sends conflicting signals into the organization as to whom they are supposed to follow. Earlier this year, members of the Board repeatedly pressured management to issue financial forecasts that were rosier than market conditions warranted and would have, had management acceded, damaged the Company’s credibility and financial position.

* * *

The net effect of the foregoing is a factionalized Board, at conflict internally with itself and with management, that disserves all of our stakeholders. It is particularly critical that we rectify this now, given the series of essential decisions facing the Company and the current state of paralysis.

Accordingly, attached as Annex A to this letter is notice of a special meeting of the Board (the “Special Board Meeting”), pursuant to Article III, Section 3.7 of the Bylaws, to discuss these critical issues. Given the gravity of this matter, I expect my colleagues will make themselves available for the Special Board Meeting that I have duly noticed and called to occur on April 4, 2023 at 11:00 am PT / 2:00 pm ET.

Although I am hopeful that a candid discussion of these issues can lead to their constructive resolution, recent events temper my optimism. I am therefore simultaneously pursuing an alternative path to resolve this deadlock by allowing Cutera’s stockholders to express their views directly as to whom they believe will best represent their interests. Article II, Section 2.3 of the Bylaws empowers the Chairman to call a special meeting of the Company’s stockholders (the “Special Stockholder Meeting”). As such, and acting in my capacity as Chairman, I have exercised my authority to call such a meeting; attached to this letter as Annex B is the formal notice and demand for the Special Stockholder Meeting.

Recognizing that the 2023 Annual Meeting of Stockholders (the “2023 Annual Meeting”) is planned for June 14, 2023, I believe it would be more efficient to place all of these issues before the stockholders at the 2023 Annual Meeting rather than holding two separate meetings close together in time to resolve an overlapping set of issues. Should the Board vote to amend the Nomination Deadline to allow stockholders to nominate Directors at the 2023 Annual Meeting, and do so without conditions and without moving or adjourning the 2023 Annual Meeting, then I shall withdraw the demand for the Special Stockholder Meeting and permit these important matters to be resolved at 2023 Annual Meeting.1

* * *

The immediate resolution of the issues outlined in this letter is imperative and is the only viable way to extricate the Board from the dysfunctional morass in which it is currently mired. If we cannot resolve them at the Special Board Meeting, then we shall proceed with the duly called Special Stockholder Meeting, allowing the stockholders of the Company to have their voices heard in electing a Board which they believe best represents them.

As always, I look forward to your response and working together to act in the best interests of Cutera’s stakeholders.

Respectfully yours,

J. Daniel Plants
Chairman, Board of Directors of Cutera, Inc.

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