RealTime IT News

Webvan Names New COO

Changes in command continue to take place at Webvan, the online drug and grocery delivery service.

Robert Swan on Wednesday was promoted to chief operating officer, a newly created position. He previously held the title of chief financial officer. Additionally, Mark X. Zaleski, senior vice president of area operations, resigned to accept a position of COO at a European-based Internet company.

Swan will lead the company's areas operations as well as oversee its marketing, merchandising, customer service and strategic alliance departments.

The restructuring follows a last week's announcement that George T. Shaheen, the president and CEO of Webvan , replaced company founder Louis H. Borders as chairman of the board of directors.

Management restructuring are not the only activities taking place at the company. Within the past week, Webvan's actions have put under the microscope by the public, the media and within specific communities.

Last Friday, the company unveiled plans to move into a 400,000 square foot building in the South Bronx region of New York City and provide at least 900 jobs to the distressed community. City agencies embraced the idea of what Webvan could bring to the community and courted the etailer by collectively offering about $11 million in incentives.

By Monday, the company announced its growth plans had been scaled back, with distribution center openings in Baltimore, Md., and New Jersey being put on hold.

At that same time, industry analysts shed doubt on the company's plan to put the South Bronx operation into effect.

Bud Grebey, vice president of corporate affairs at Webvan, declined to comment on speculation, but noted that "in the long term our goal is to do business in the New York market. We have leased property, but we have not released a timetable of our plans."

Grebey noted that Webvan has not yet assumed possession of the South Bronx building nor has any hiring been done.

In part, delays in opening new distribution centers were attributed to the company's recent acquisition of rival Homegrocer.com. It was suggested by Goldman Sachs research that halting expansion plans temporarily would give Webvan time to focus on merger integration.

In a prepared statement, Shaheen indicated that a solid management team must be put in place to tie loose ends together.

"Clearly, as Webvan hones its focus on profitability goals and accelerates the migration to a unified technology platform and a single brand name, the company needs a seasoned world-class operating executive on its leadership team," said the statement.

"Bob has played a very operational role as CFO. I am confident that his solid operating and finance background brings the right components of experience and leadership to spearhead our focus on profitability, integration and future growth."

An external search is in place to fill the CFO position.

Grebey confirmed that additional management changes may take place. "As we continue to integrate to a common technology platform we will access and build our organization to support that," he said.