Ask Jeeves Skipper Steps Down

Amid revised fourth quarter estimates severely impacted by the drought in

online advertising, Ask Jeeves Inc.’s Rob Wrubel stepped down Thursday as

chief executive officer and board member.

Current board member A. George Battle has signed on in the interim to

replace Wrubel, who will move to the role of executive vice president of

market development.

The move came in conjunction with the company’s amendment that it expects

revenues of $25 million and a pro forma net loss of 50 cents a share worth

$18 million. The previous consensus estimate among analysts was a loss of 33

cents per share.

The search engine’s president, Adam Klein, voiced a familiar downward trend

when he cited profuse weakness in the online advertising market as the

reason for the CEO switchover and the greater-than-expected loss.

“Amongst this and other factors, we have experienced weaker than anticipated

demand for our solutions, however our relationships with existing customers

remain strong,” Klein said in a company statement Thursday.

“We believe the more calculated attitude toward spending presents a more

mature and more attractive market for Ask Jeeves in the long term given the

strong return on investment we continue to deliver to our customers.”

For his part, interim skipper Battle also issued the often-repeated mantra

for companies scrambling to see what changes are coming around the bend:

Battle said Ask Jeeves would focus on “our core assets to maintain and grow

our market position as we align our business strategies with this changing

market environment.”

After two and a half years as CEO, Wrubel had spent two and half years as

CEO, under which Ask Jeeves skyrocketed in popularity, particularly in

classrooms where students learned to explore the Web for the first time.

Board member Roger Strauch recognized Wrubel’s achievements.

“In the last two and a half years, Rob has done an exceptional job building

the Company, its brand and culture, and has successfully led Ask Jeeves

through the first phase of growth,” Strauch said. “He built Ask Jeeves into

a household name and a top 20 Web property.”

Wrubel himself said in the company statement that a different set of skills

was required to take Ask Jeeves to the next level, adding that his strength

was in product development.

Battle will act as CEO until a permanent leader is appointed. The company

said it will conduct an internal and external search to select a permanent

CEO. Geoffrey Y. Yang, a member of the Ask Jeeves Board, will replace Battle

on the board’s compensation committee.

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