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CMGI's Wetherell Bows Out

David Wetherell, the controversial leader of Internet investor CMGI , is stepping down as CEO on March 1.

The 47-year-old will stay on as chairman of the Andover, Mass., company, which owns search engine Alta Vista, auction site UBid and ad software firm Engage , among others.

He will be replaced by CFO George McMillan, who joined the company from BMG Direct, a unit of Bertelsmann, only seven months ago. McMillan, also 47, will become a director as part of his promotion.

"Today's announcement reflects a transition which I have envisioned for some time, and with the company on track to both grow revenues and continue its steadfast march to profitability, I can think of no better time to make it official," Wetherell said.

Wetherell became a titan of the Internet industry in the late 1990s when CMGI-backed firms went public at a rapid clip. But when the dot-com crash hit, the company found itself over-extended and in possession of precious few money-makers.

Since then, it has seen its market value dwindle and undertook a painful restructuring to jettison companies and workers that dragged on the bottom line.

Wetherell also came under fire for a 15-year, $76 million stadium naming deal with the New England Patriots. Despite criticism from investors, he remained loyal to the CMGI Field deal -- which looks slightly more attractive since the team's Super Bowl triumph.

In response to outcry from stockholders, Wetherell also cut his salary to $1 last year. Previously, Wetherell said he offered to resign from the post earlier, but the board wouldn't hear of it.

In its most recent quarterly report, CMGI showed signs that its restructuring is working. While revenues were down, its losses were cut significantly.

McMillan was hailed by Wetherell for being instrumental in the company's reorganization, specifically by simplifying the corporate structure, reducing costs and helping subsidiaries.

"When I joined CMGI seven months ago, I saw an amazing opportunity to participate in its transformation," McMillan said. "I'm appreciative of the confidence demonstrated by David and our board."

Shares of CMGI were off 0.05, or 3 percent, at midday to 1.37. In the last 52 weeks, the issue has ranged from 0.6 to 6.5. At the peak of the Nasdaq bull market, the stock flirted with 200.