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
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
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.