the Internet content infrastructure company announced the replacement of its chief executive, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, shares in InfoSpace tumbled $1.88, or 21%, to trade at $7.03.
With the company a week away from announcing its earnings for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, and with InfoSpace likely to update investors on its expected 2001 financial performance, investors were clearly shaken up by the group departure, no matter how innocuous the given reasons for the changes might be, and no matter what the job-changing executives might have said about their continuing service to the company.
"I don't think it's a positive for the stock," says Matthew Adams, research analyst at
. Adams, who initiated coverage on InfoSpace earlier this month, says one of the reasons he has liked the company is that it had expanded its management. "This move today is, in a sense, a step backwards." Adams, whose firm hasn't done underwriting for InfoSpace, put a 12-to-24-month price target of $20 on the stock. Epoch doesn't assign ratings to stocks.
Reassuming the role of CEO will be Naveen Jain, the energetic
veteran who founded InfoSpace and who, on a Monday afternoon conference call with analysts, spoke more than once about InfoSpace's pace of seven-day, 16-hour work weeks.
Departing CEO Arun Sarin, who will stay on as the company's vice chairman, joined InfoSpace last April, leaving a top-level position at wireless carrier
. Sarin, who says he's leaving because of obligations to his family based in the San Francisco area, was seen as key to InfoSpace's efforts to sell its services to large wireless carriers, says Adams.
Russell Horowitz, founder and former chairman of
, which InfoSpace acquired last year, is yielding his positions as InfoSpace COO and director to become executive consultant and adviser.
In a Monday research note,
analyst Virginia Genereux wrote, "We believe InfoSpace loses critical management and industry expertise with the diminished roles of Sarin and Horowitz. We believe these moves are troubling, as management stated their commitment to the company." Genereux has an accumulate, Merrill's second-highest rating, on the stock; Merrill was an adviser to Go2Net in the InfoSpace deal.