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Starkey Employees Mystified By Firing Of 4 Top Officers

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (WCCO) - The firings of four top executives at Starkey Hearing Technologies in Eden Prairie has employees wondering what's going on.

The hearing aid manufacturer released a short statement about the terminations -- confirming only that there is an ongoing investigation.

Starkey is a huge presence in the Twin Cities, employing thousands and doing close to a billion dollars in annual revenue. The Starkey Foundation Gala is the envy of fundraisers everywhere.

But investigation at the very top has frustrated employees.

Employees were greeted at work Wednesday morning by a shocking and unexpected email. Under the memo "investigation," it announced the firings of four top executives.

President Jerry Ruzicka was led out by security. Chief Financial Officer Scott Nelson, Vice President of Human Resources Larry Miller and Operations Vice President Keith Guggenberger were also terminated.

Company founder and CEO Bill Austin released a brief statement: "We can't comment due to an ongoing investigation. There are no issues that affect our company and it's business as usual."

Austin is the sole owner of Starkey but devotes his attention to the charitable foundation arm, which funds its mission with the annual gala.

He's said in the past that he doesn't attend budget or sales meetings and doesn't get involved in the company's money matters.

"I haven't written a check since August 1970," Austin said before last year's gala. "I don't know who writes my checks. I have no idea and I don't care."

He clearly cared Wednesday morning.

Company employees were reluctant to speak on camera but voiced frustration over what's behind the mass firings.

The FBI, Eden Prairie Police and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office all said they are not involved in any criminal investigation at the company.

Everyone is asking what's behind the firings. There are a lot of rumors circulating, including mismanagement or even financial wrongdoings.

But at this point it seems to be an internal matter of a privately held company and Austin isn't spilling the beans.

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