By Ryan Naraine
Less than a year after engineering a mega-merger
with publishing giant Primedia
, Scott Kurnit has been
shifted upstairs at Web portal About.com.
Primedia, which has seen its stock price nosedive more than 50 percent
since the acquisition, announced president Bill Day would move up to the CEO
spot to replace Kurnit, the former Prodigy executive who launched About.com
as “The Mining Company” in 1996.
At the time of last year’s merger, Kurnit was also named Chief Internet
Officer of Primedia but Tuesday’s announcement, which said Kurnit was also stepping down as a director, made no mention of his future in the position. Company officials were not available for comment at presstime.
The announcement comes as a surprise to many who viewed Kurnit’s close friendship with Primedia head honcho Tom Rogers as a sign the two would remain at the helm of one of the world’s largest online/offline media
Kurnit’s replacement, the 37-year-old Bill Day, is another Kurnit
contemporary from their days at Prodigy in the early 1990s.
Day was a co-founder of About.com after spending nine years at Prodigy,
serving in various executive roles, including VP of software development;
general manager for content and community and director of internet
A Wharton grad, Day will have his work cut out for him. The general
softness in the advertising market has taken a toll on About.com, which is
struggling to integrate its Web sites with Primedia’s offline titles. Since
the merger, the company has implemented several rounds of staff cuts to keep
a cap on expenses.
Primedia said the new CEO would continue to serve as About.com’s president.
Kurnit retains the chairman post through the end of this year and would be
an advisor to the company into 2004. Kurnit will continue to be a major
shareholder in the company.
Primedia boss Tom Rogers attributed Kurnit’s exit to “his desire to transition
out of the company.”
In a statement, he said: “Scott steered About into the merger with Primedia enabling the company to
become a truly integrated traditional and new media power. Since the merger,
Scott has focused on effectively integrating our new and traditional media
properties, building what is the largest targeted media company in the
“He has been a good friend and partner during this process, and I understand
his desire to transition out of the company at this time given the
integration progress that has been made and his complete confidence in his
long time partner, Bill Day,” Rogers added.