RealTime IT News

Ask Jeeves Skipper Steps Down

Amid revised fourth quarter estimates severely impacted by the drought in online advertising, Ask Jeeves Inc.'s Rob Wrubel stepped down Thursday as chief executive officer and board member.

Current board member A. George Battle has signed on in the interim to replace Wrubel, who will move to the role of executive vice president of market development.

The move came in conjunction with the company's amendment that it expects revenues of $25 million and a pro forma net loss of 50 cents a share worth $18 million. The previous consensus estimate among analysts was a loss of 33 cents per share.

The search engine's president, Adam Klein, voiced a familiar downward trend when he cited profuse weakness in the online advertising market as the reason for the CEO switchover and the greater-than-expected loss.

"Amongst this and other factors, we have experienced weaker than anticipated demand for our solutions, however our relationships with existing customers remain strong," Klein said in a company statement Thursday.

"We believe the more calculated attitude toward spending presents a more mature and more attractive market for Ask Jeeves in the long term given the strong return on investment we continue to deliver to our customers."

For his part, interim skipper Battle also issued the often-repeated mantra for companies scrambling to see what changes are coming around the bend: Battle said Ask Jeeves would focus on "our core assets to maintain and grow our market position as we align our business strategies with this changing market environment."

After two and a half years as CEO, Wrubel had spent two and half years as CEO, under which Ask Jeeves skyrocketed in popularity, particularly in classrooms where students learned to explore the Web for the first time.

Board member Roger Strauch recognized Wrubel's achievements.

"In the last two and a half years, Rob has done an exceptional job building the Company, its brand and culture, and has successfully led Ask Jeeves through the first phase of growth," Strauch said. "He built Ask Jeeves into a household name and a top 20 Web property."

Wrubel himself said in the company statement that a different set of skills was required to take Ask Jeeves to the next level, adding that his strength was in product development.

Battle will act as CEO until a permanent leader is appointed. The company said it will conduct an internal and external search to select a permanent CEO. Geoffrey Y. Yang, a member of the Ask Jeeves Board, will replace Battle on the board's compensation committee.