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CFO Departs at Homestore

Troubled online real estate play Homestore Inc., whose stock took the down escalator last month after the company said it expects a loss instead of a profit, got more bad news today as its chief financial officer, Joseph Shew, resigned for personal reasons.

It's never a good sign at a dot com when the top financial exec departs. Shew joined the supplier of online real estate technology only last February after serving as the company's vice president for finance.

The company's stock was down more than 65 cents or about 21 percent in mid-day trading today, to $2.45 a share. Its 52-week high is $37.25.

Westlake Village, Calif.-based Homestore, in a terse press release, said it has initiated a search for a new CFO.

In early November the company posted a whopping third-quarter net loss of $106.6 million, or 96 cents per share on tumbling ad revenues. On a pro forma basis, the company posted a 6-cent per share loss, or $6.9 million -- double Wall Street's loss expectations.

The company also cut future guidance, anticipating a pro forma fourth-quarter loss of about 30 to 38 cents per share. Wall Street had been expecting a fourth-quarter profit of a penny per share.

The bad economic news came after several quarters of being pegged by analysts as one of the industry's most recession-resistant players -- in March, Goldman, Sachs, for one, upgraded the stock to its highest rating, calling it the "closest to a defensive play in the Internet sector."

Homestore's network of Web sites includes the flagship Realtor.com; HomeBuilder.com; Homestore Apartments & Rentals; and Homestore.com, a home information resource.