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Homestore Hopes to Kick Year Off Anew

Homestore.com Inc. stock plummeted today as trading resumed after its top exec quit and the troubled company named a new chairman, chief executive and chief financial officer, as well as a new COO.

The Nasdaq Stock Market approved a 12:30 p.m. resumption of trading in HomeStore.com stock, which last traded at $3.60 in December. The price immediately dropped about 45 percent, to $1.96 a share. It then recovered some, closing at $2.46.

Homestore Chairman and CEO Stuart Wolff has "resigned to pursue a new technology venture," the company said, providing no further explanation.

The beleaguered online real estate operation, which issued a preliminary report last week saying that it overstated its earnings for the first three quarters of 2001 by as much as $95 million, said that W. Michael Long is joining the company as chief executive officer.

Long-standing board member Joe F. Hanauer, has been named chairman of the company's board of directors. Jack D. Dennison joins as chief operating officer and Lewis R. Belote III joins as chief financial officer. Hanauer is a veteran of the real estate industry who has served as a director of Homestore since November 1996. He is former chairman of Grubb & Ellis Co. and former chairman of Coldwell Banker Residential Group Inc.

Nasdaq halted trading in Homestore stock on Dec. 21, less than a month after its CFO resigned.

The Westlake Village, Calif.-based company said earlier that an audit committee investigation of its finances showed that it had accounted for barter advertising deals as regular ad sales transactions.

In a news release, Homestore said that "before today, the company had placed three employees on administrative leave in connection with the audit committee inquiry and the company may take additional disciplinary measures because of the inquiry."

The employees placed on leave were members of the finance department and business development department, Homestore said.

Long, 49, the new CEO, has served as president and chief executive officer of The Continuum Company Inc.; chief executive officer of Healtheon Corp.; and chairman of WebMD Inc., after its merger with Healtheon.