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THE CUTTING EDGE: Focus on E-Business

Priceline Shares Plunge 24% as Another Top Executive Quits

November 09, 2000|From Reuters Inc. shares fell 24% on Wednesday amid the departure of another key executive and renewed investor doubts about the viability of the "name-your-own-price" Internet retailer, analysts said.

The Norwalk, Conn., company said Wednesday that Maryann Keller, head of its auto services business, has quit. Also quitting were William Pike, vice president of financial planning and investor relations, and Allison McEnerney, director of investor relations, Priceline said.

All three left the company last week. Priceline also said last week that Heidi Miller, its well-regarded finance chief who joined from Citigroup amid some fanfare in February, had left.

Miller's resignation was announced as the company, whose shares have lost 83% of their value in the last three months, unveiled a restructuring that entailed cutting 16% of its 535-employee work force.

Priceline shares fell $1.03 to close at a record low of $3.25, a drop of 24%, on Nasdaq.

Keller told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published Wednesday that she thinks the experiment with selling cars online has failed.

"It is not a good sign," said Louis Amoroso, senior research associate at Jefferies & Co. "When you see someone the caliber of Keller heading for the exit, it signals that that vertical [product line] is obviously not going as well as planned."

Priceline spokesman Brian Elk said the company remains committed to its auto business. "We're selling cars today, and we're proving every day that consumers are willing to buy cars online," he said.

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