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California and the West

Ex-Critic of Dot-Com Firms Quits as Ad Agency's CEO

June 08, 2006|From the Associated Press

Philip J. Kaplan, the bawdy joker behind a profane website that skewered casualties of the dot-com bust, found out that mocking other executives was easier than trying to run a rapidly expanding company.

Kaplan has stepped down as chief executive of AdBrite Inc., the online advertising agency he started in late 2004.

Kaplan, 30, resigned this month to make way for veteran manager Ignacio "Iggy" Fanlo, a former investment banker who helped build and then sell Shopping.com to EBay Inc. for $634 million last year.

The change in command ended Kaplan's attempt to establish himself as a serious CEO after years of clowning around at a derisive website he created to excoriate Internet start-ups as they flamed out in 2000 and 2001.

Kaplan began his makeover in late 2004 when he moved from New York to start AdBrite in the same San Francisco neighborhood that spawned so many of the dot-coms that became objects of his scorn.

Now he is scrambling to stop people from interpreting AdBrite's management shake-up as a sign of trouble at his own dot-com.

Although AdBrite remains unprofitable, Kaplan says the start-up is thriving. The agency now places ads on 16,000 websites, up from 3,500 early last year. Meanwhile, AdBrite's payroll has tripled to 45 employees, bolstered by quarterly revenue that has been increasing by 25% to 50% every three months, Kaplan said.

Venture capitalists saw enough upside in AdBrite to invest $8 million in March.

"We have been growing very fast so we decided to bring in some awesome [management] experience," said Kaplan, who remains AdBrite's chairman and chief product officer.

In Kaplan's old rabble-rousing days, his website occasionally ravaged Shopping.com and even predicted the pricing-comparison site's demise when it was still known as DealTime.

Fanlo, 45, spent 6 six years as a top executive at DealTime and Shopping.com, so he remembers the unkind remarks. Still, he says he doesn't hold a grudge against Kaplan or the his merciless site, which he described as an "amusing diversion."

The EBay sale made it easier for Fanlo to forgive and forget. When the all-cash deal closed 10 months ago, Fanlo owned Shopping.com stock worth $12 million, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents.

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