Clark/Bardes Laps Competitors in Executive Compensation Field

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Byline: Mike Comerford Daily Herald Business Writer

W. Tom Wamberg says success in both his professional and personal life has him worried.

"I like to run on what I call 'professional paranoia,'" he said. "I don't like to say things are all great because there's always room for improvement."

Hobbyist, sportsman and father of seven, Wamberg heads Clark/Bardes Consulting, which is building up a substantial lead in the executive compensation field.

Recession and the post-Sept. 11 economy aren't proving obstacles for the company, which devises and administers executive compensation packages.

"For the foreseeable future I don't see a slowdown," said Wamberg, chief executive officer and chairman, Clark/Bardes Inc. "If a company doesn't have good people, they're toast in this economy. So demand is still there."

The North Barrington-based firm went public in 1998 and its stock has since risen from $9 a share to close at $27.50 on Tuesday. It completed a secondary stock offering, for 4.1 million shares, in November raising $70 million for the company.

All of which is especially good news for Wamberg, who now owns 12.5 percent of the firm, down from 20 percent earlier last year.

"It's the best stock on my list," said Michael Hutchison, who follows the company as senior investment analyst for Barrington Research Associates, Chicago.

"My target price is $38 a share," he added. "I think it will have more of a run this year."

Indeed, Wamberg has plans to continue to grow the company the way he has since he decided to take it public - by acquisition. He plans to buy five to six executive compensation firms this year. The company has made 18 acquisitions since going public, including buying Berkeley, Calif.-based Coates Kenney Inc. on Dec. 26 for an estimated $1.2 million.

It has the money already lined up for more acquisitions - with the secondary offering it now has $200 million in credit and reserves for a cash-to-capitalization ratio of about 40 percent.

In a year when many companies were struggling, Wamberg increased sales by 50 percent last year to $220 million. The company has been compounding its revenue by 45 percent a year since 1996.

That has not, however, come at the expense of profits. For 2001, the company expects to report net income of about $18.4 million, a 60 percent rise from 2000.

Wamberg is also aiming to boost the company's market capitalization from its present $337 million to $1 billion in the next three to five years. …