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Jupiter Media Metrix Chairman Out of CEO Post

Internet consultancy Jupiter Media Metrix will have a new chief executive, it said Thursday -- once a replacement is found for its current CEO and chairman, Tod Johnson.

According to Jupiter, Johnson is leaving the top executive post in the company because he also oversees another company -- market research firm The NPD Group, of which he is also chairman and chief executive. Johnson has overseen Media Metrix (which merged with Jupiter Communications last year) since its inception in 1996, when it was spun out of The NPD Group.

"I have recently informed the board ... that I believe today's market conditions make it increasingly difficult for me to remain as the CEO of two companies," Johnson said. "The board and I have decided that it is the appropriate time to search externally for an executive who will complement our strong management team and contribute a fresh perspective, strong vision, and skills to help us extend our position as the global leader in market intelligence."

Johnson will retain both titles until a search committee brings in a new chief executive from the outside, after which he will continue as chairman of the New York-based firm. The company has tapped executive recruiting consultancy Korn/Ferry International to lead the search effort.

The company did not disclose when it expects to find a replacement for Johnson.

That the firm is looking externally for a new CEO means that it isn't looking to Gene DeRose to fill the top spot. DeRose, who headed up Jupiter Communications prior to its merger with Media Metrix in September, currently serves as the company's president and vice chairman and oversees day-to-day operations.

"Right now, the board feels like we are looking for a manager who can complement the vision of the other managers," said a spokesperson for the company. "Someone with fresh thinking."

That the firm is passing DeRose over isn't entirely a surprise.

While Johnson has years of experience in a company's top post -- he took over NPD in 1971 -- DeRose worked his way up through the ranks of Jupiter, joining as research director in 1990. However, in the current market downturn, Internet firms increasingly are shying away from executives who cut their teeth during the industry bubble -- often bumping up their founder/CEOs in an effort to bring in more seasoned talent.

For instance, Korn/Ferry is also looking for a replacement for Yahoo!'s chairman Tim Koogle, who too will drop his CEO title when a replacement is brought in.

In addition, Johnson's announcement wasn't the only reorganization that Jupiter Media Metrix said it would be undertaking. For one, group presidents Kurt Abrahamson and Mary Ann Packo now will each oversee specific aspects of the business.

Abrahamson, who previously headed up the Jupiter practice, now will spearhead the firm's domestic consulting business (both its Jupiter Research and Media Metrix units) as well as global sales (in relation to Jupiter Events sponsorships, for instance).

Packo, who had overseen the Media Metrix unit, will focus on the company's international consulting practice and worldwide strategic marketing.

Chief financial officer Jean Robinson also will take on the additional title of chief administrative officer through the reorganization.

The company's spokesperson said the changes will support Jupiter Media Metrix's evolution into an "integrated measurement and analyst research organization," by centralizing marketing, consulting and sales units that existed independently following the Jupiter-Media Metrix merger.