Last night I reported Jim Safka To Replace Jim Lanzone As CEO Of Ask.com at Search Engine Land. In short, Jim Lanzone, who became Ask.com's CEO in August of 2006, to step up when Steve Berkowitz left to go to Microsoft, has been replaced by one of Diller's guys, Jim Safka. I hear very good things about Safka, he was previously the CEO of Match.com and he will retain his job at as CEO of Primal Ventures.
But the SEO/SEM community was a bit taken back by the shocking news. Jim Lanzone has been such an important part of Ask.com, since joining in the company in 2001 as Vice President of Product Management. He drove and lead the company for a long time. But more importantly, Jim Lanzone had a special connection with the SEM community, a connection that I feel no other CEO at any other search engine company had.
Barry Diller said it himself:
Jim Lanzone was the principal executive responsible for Ask.com's turnaround over the last two years. His passion for innovation and his every day dedication to the business and its people have been everything anyone could ask for. He is a superb executive and leader and I'm hopeful we can be associated in the future.
I don't know who left who. I just can't see Jim Lanzone leaving Ask, I just can't see it. It is just a shame.
A Sphinn thread shares some of the thoughts we had about Jim Lanzone and how much we will miss him. I personally felt he was the soul of Ask.com and accounted for a lot of the soul of the search industry.
Lisa Barone said:
He brought an amazing amount of energy and excitement to my favorite little search engine. It was always fun to see his face light up when you got him talking about what Ask was up to or their latest round of TV commercials.
More on those commercials over here.
Barry Welford said:
Oh dear. I hoped that Diller was focusing on ASK since I thing that is the sole horse that should drive the IAC growth. The quote from the article isn't at all encouraging:
In his statement, Diller said: "These changes are intended to strengthen and streamline the operating structure at IAC, both leading up to our intended spin-offs, and beyond."
Giving the glowing description of Jim Lanzone given by Diller, this presumably means there was a fundamental difference on strategic thinking here. That really upsets me. I was seeing ASK as the David to Google's Goliath.
Yes, it scares me too. Will Diller start cutting costs and just try to monetize the engine, leaving relevancy to Google and others?
Kevin Heisler said:
Lanzone deserves Diller's kudos. He launched the blended search innovations that have transformed the industry.
Jim - we wish you much success in your new ventures. You will always be missed and we hope you stay connected with us in the search industry. We know that your new position as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Venture Capital firm, Redpoint Ventures may lead to you coming back into the search space - and that give us all hope!
Forum discussion at Sphinn.