AltaVista must search for new CEO

AltaVista Co. has started searching for a new top dog after Rod Schrock, chief executive officer at the pioneering Internet search company, said Thursday he will leave the company effective immediately.

In a telephone interview with IDG News Service this afternoon, Schrock said he told fellow executives about his decision to leave the company a few weeks ago and feels confident that AltaVista can continue towards profitability following his departure.

Schrock said he made up his mind to leave the company at about the time of the Summer Olympic Games, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family after helping both Compaq Computer Corp. — his former employer — and AltaVista rise from small companies to technology mainstays.

“I have been working like hell for 15 years,” Schrock said. “I have had a personal goal to spend more time with my family.”

AltaVista has launched its search for a new CEO and will look to other companies in the search engine marketplace in order to fill the position left by Schrock. The company tried to convince Schrock to stay; however, his personal aspirations provided the impetus for his departure, an AltaVista spokesman said.

“There are some candidates already in mind,” the spokesman said.

In the meantime, Greg Memo, president and chief operating officer at AltaVista, and Ken Barber, chief financial officer, will take on the executive responsibilities until a new CEO joins the company.

“I wouldn’t be taking this step if I didn’t have confidence in Greg,” Schrock said.

AltaVista will continue to focus on developing search engine technology designed to handle the complex demands of large corporations. The spokesman said that the company realigned its business strategy about a month ago to concentrate on the needs of big businesses.

Both AltaVista and Schrock said that this move remains in line with the company’s shifting business goals. For some time, the company waffled between acting as a pure play search engine and offering a variety of services like companies in the portal space. Last month, AltaVista cut around 25 percent of its work force in an attempt to get closer to profitability and to stay focused on its goals as a corporate search engine.

Schrock added that he plans to return to the technology sector, following his sabbatical. He will, however, try to focus less on the Internet and more on developing new technologies in surrounding markets.

“My real passion is in computing technology,” he said. “The Internet space is more of a media space.”

Schrock admitted that leaving the company he helped bring to life will cause some anguish. “I am going to feel a great loss,” he said.

CMGI Inc. owns around 83 percent of AltaVista in addition to claiming a stake in over 70 other Internet-related companies. Compaq owns nearly 18 percent of Andover, Massachusetts-based CMGI.

AltaVista, headquartered in Palo Alto, California, can be contacted on the Web at