Tech Firms See Shakeups Amid Shakeout

Several high-tech companies, including WebMD, Motorola (Nasdaq: MOT), Stamps.com (Nasdaq: STMP) and Compaq Computer (Nasdaq: CPQ), saw changes at the top of the executive ladder on Thursday amid a barrage of resignations and retirements.

Jeff Arnold, WebMD’s 30 year-old founder, announced his resignation just hours before the company met with financial analysts to discuss its strategic outlook for the future. Arnold’s departure leaves WebMD in the hands of Marty Wygod, who joined the firm one month ago when WebMD bought software firm Medical Manager.

WebMD executives told analysts the company will continue to tighten its focus on online bill payment services for doctors’ offices, unveiling a handheld device designed to enable physicians to write prescriptions and have them entered directly into online databases.

Stamps.com Chief Quits

Meanwhile, Stamps.com CEO John Payne became the fourth high-ranking executive to leave that struggling company in the past week, following in the footsteps of the company’s chief financial officer, president and chief operating officer.

Stamps.com said in a statement that it had appointed former U.S. postmaster general Marvin Runyon to run the company while a search is conducted. The company also said it will “explore other strategic alternatives for the company.”

The expected market for online stamps has not materialized as many had hoped, and Stamps.com has seen its stock fall from nearly $100 (US$) per share to less than $3. The company lost more than $89 million during the second quarter of this year on sales of just $5.7 million. Still, the company insists it remains in a strong position, with $300 million in cash on hand.

Motorola Changes

Also on Thursday, the head of Motorola’s Communications Enterprise division, Merle Gilmore, quit abruptly.

Gilmore’s departure came as Motorola issued more conservative earnings estimates and said that consumers are adopting Web-enabled mobile phones at a slower rate than anticipated. At least one analyst viewed the resignation as a wildcard of uncertainty in the face Motorola’s upcoming earnings.

“It’s not good news — that we can be certain of at least in the short term,” Prudential Volpe Technology Group analyst Pete Peterson noted in published reports. “Whether it can be good news in the long term we can’t discern yet.”

Compaq Legend Steps Down

The circumstances were much better at personal computer maker Compaq, where founder and longtime chairman Ben Rosen officially stepped down on Thursday.

The 67 year-old Rosen, who had been chairman of Compaq since its inception in 1982 and built it into the largest PC maker in the world, handed the reins to longtime CEO Michael Capellas.

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