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Published: Thursday, 7/8/2004

La-Z-Boy exec defies month's trend, buys heavily in company's stock

In a month when corporate executives and directors' purchases of their companies stock plunged nationwide, an executive at Monroe's La-Z-Boy Inc. set the company's stock purchasing record, a monthly report released yesterday shows.

Rodney England, president of the furniture maker's England Inc. and a grandson of that Tennessee unit's founder, bought 60,000 shares worth nearly $1.1 million last month, bringing his total holdings of La-Z-Boy shares to 234,623.

Last month's purchases ranging between $17.48 and $18.41 a share, near the stock's 52-week low, likely indicate Mr. England anticipates an upside, said Kevin Schwenger, insider research analyst for Thomson Financial, which tracks open-market purchases and sales by insiders.

"It seems like a pretty bullish sign on his part," he said. "Buying is usually a pretty positive sign in general."

Mr. England could not be reached for comment yesterday. Besides being president of England, which the Monroe firm acquired in 1995, he heads company units that make upholstered furniture, including Bauhaus USA Inc. and Sam Moore Furniture Industries but excluding La-Z-Boy.

Overall, meanwhile, insiders sharply reduced their purchasing activities in June after three consecutive months of increases, according to Thomson Financial's monthly report.

Insiders acquired $102 million of their own companies' stock last month, down from $178 million in May and the biggest decline for that time period since 1997, the report said.

Mr. Schwenger said insider selling continues to be robust at $3 billion last month, down from $3.3 billion in May, and market activity has been strong.

But corporate executives and directors seem to be one of few groups hesitant about a recovery, he said.

La-Z-Boy is among a half dozen examples last month of companies with compelling insider buys, Mr. Schwenger said, including the purchase of 300,000 shares of technology firm Advanced Digital Information Corp. worth more than $2.9 million by John Stanton, a director.

"Other than that," he added, "it's been fairly pathetic."

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