RealTime IT News

Kurnit Out as About.com CEO

By Ryan Naraine

Less than a year after engineering a mega-merger with publishing giant Primedia , Scott Kurnit has been shifted upstairs at Web portal About.com.

Primedia, which has seen its stock price nosedive more than 50 percent since the acquisition, announced president Bill Day would move up to the CEO spot to replace Kurnit, the former Prodigy executive who launched About.com as "The Mining Company" in 1996.

At the time of last year's merger, Kurnit was also named Chief Internet Officer of Primedia but Tuesday's announcement, which said Kurnit was also stepping down as a director, made no mention of his future in the position. Company officials were not available for comment at presstime.

The announcement comes as a surprise to many who viewed Kurnit's close friendship with Primedia head honcho Tom Rogers as a sign the two would remain at the helm of one of the world's largest online/offline media companies.

Kurnit's replacement, the 37-year-old Bill Day, is another Kurnit contemporary from their days at Prodigy in the early 1990s.

Day was a co-founder of About.com after spending nine years at Prodigy, serving in various executive roles, including VP of software development; general manager for content and community and director of internet development.

A Wharton grad, Day will have his work cut out for him. The general softness in the advertising market has taken a toll on About.com, which is struggling to integrate its Web sites with Primedia's offline titles. Since the merger, the company has implemented several rounds of staff cuts to keep a cap on expenses.

Primedia said the new CEO would continue to serve as About.com's president. Kurnit retains the chairman post through the end of this year and would be an advisor to the company into 2004. Kurnit will continue to be a major shareholder in the company.

Primedia boss Tom Rogers attributed Kurnit's exit to "his desire to transition out of the company."

In a statement, he said: "Scott steered About into the merger with Primedia enabling the company to become a truly integrated traditional and new media power. Since the merger, Scott has focused on effectively integrating our new and traditional media properties, building what is the largest targeted media company in the world.

"He has been a good friend and partner during this process, and I understand his desire to transition out of the company at this time given the integration progress that has been made and his complete confidence in his long time partner, Bill Day," Rogers added.