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Shopping.com CEO Out; New One on the Way

Management: Robert J. McNulty quits the troubled Web retailer, succeeded by chain veteran John H. Markley.

June 06, 1998|LESLIE EARNEST | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Beleaguered online retailer Shopping.com said Friday that founder and Chief Executive Robert J. McNulty has resigned.

The company named retailing veteran John H. Markley, 58, to relace him. Markley, who also will serve on the board, was formerly chairman and chief executive of Pay N' Pak Home Centers, which filed for bankruptcy in 1991.

McNulty 52, said Friday that he decided to leave the 2-year-old money-losing company because it had reached a point in its maturity when "it needed a new CEO." He also admitted he did not want to be a liability to the company, whose soaring stock earlier this year made it the target of investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Assn. of Securities Dealers.

McNulty's resignation is the second high-level departure from the Corona del Mar-based company since March 24, when Chairman Bill Gross, who was also chairman of the Internet start-up incubator Idealab, stepped down.

Markley could not be reached for comment Friday. McNulty said his successor was brought aboard at Pay N' Pak to turn the company around, but that its financial problems were too deep.

Markley also was president and chief executive of W.R. Grace Western Region Home Center Division and president of Cashways Building Centers. Both are home improvement chain stores.

Shopping.com, dubbed the Wal-Mart of the Web, serves as a liaison between merchants and online shoppers. It makes money by taking a small percentage of each sale.

The company came under fire earlier this year when the SEC halted the trading of its stock for two weeks, citing possible market manipulation. The company's underwriter and primary market maker is Irvine-based Waldron & Co., which has denied wrongdoing and blamed the run-up on short sellers. Trading resumed April 7.

In over-the-counter trading Friday, shares in Shopping.com rose 75 cents, to $24.25.

McNulty said he will work as a paid consultant for Shopping.com as needed.

"The fact is, I'm still very much involved in the heart and soul of the company," he said. "The company has tremendous potential."

McNulty said the company bought him out of a five-year contract that was scheduled to run until April 2002. He would not disclose how much he will receive but said it will not be a lump-sum payment.

Shopping.com sold 1.3 million shares for $9 each during its initial public offering in November 1997. Since then, the stock has traded as high as $39 and as low as $8.50.

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