Walker to Leave priceline.com

The crumbling “name-your-own-price” empire founded by Jay Walker will be looking for a new director come Sunday.

priceline.com Inc. said late Thursday that Walker, vice chairman of the company’s board, will resign on Dec. 31 to focus his attention on Walker Digital LLC, a think tank he created in 1995. priceline.com’s name-your-own-price business model was the brain-child of Walker Digital.

“I am proud of what has been achieved so far at priceline.com,” Walker said. “I have every confidence that priceline.com will emerge from the current environment as one of the Internet’s pre-eminent brands.”

priceline.com, once a Nasdaq heavyweight, saw its stock soar to $150 per share following its IPO in 1999. But the weakness in the Internet sector this year struck priceline a vicious blow. Its stock price has declined nearly 97 percent since its 1999 heyday as top executives took flight, airline ticket sales failed to materialize, and customer service complaints came to light. Since then, priceline.com WebHouse Club, a Walker Digital venture that licensed the priceline brand to sell groceries, gasoline and other goods, collapsed. priceline then announced it would lay off 11 percent of its staff, postpone several proposed product offerings, and focus on airline ticket and hotel room sales.

Walker recently took the helm as chief executive officer of the privately-held Walker Digital. But Walker Digital has seen its own share of problems in the past few months. It failed to secure a round of funding in November and laid off most of its staff.

priceline.com stock was trading down 9 cents, or 6.7 percent, to $1.31 at the end of regular trading Thursday.

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