Commerx Appoints Interim CEO

e-Marketplace builder to focus on improving operations and acquiring customers

CHICAGO  In the second shakeup for an Internet Capital Group (ICG) company in less than two months, Commerx announced that its co-founders, the Stojka brothers, would resign their posts as CEO and vice president at the e-marketplace builder.

Commerx, based in Chicago, said in a press release that the company's board of directors had accepted the resignations of co-founders Tim Stojka, chief executive officer, and Nick Stojka, executive vice president. Both Stojkas will retain their seats on the Commerx board of directors, and Tim Stojka will continue to serve as chairman of the board.

Jeff Garwood, previously COO at the company, will take over as interim CEO. Garwood announced his intention last week to resign as COO for a chief executive position with another company. He had agreed, however, to remain at Commerx through a transition period.

The move by Commerx, in which ICG holds a major stake, comes less than six weeks after another ICG company, RightWorks, relaunched itself with the appointment of a new CEO and a renewed focus on driving the company toward profitability.

Mary Coleman, who replaced RightWorks founder Vani Kola as CEO in the shakeup that was announced September 18, said RightWorks would be placing greater emphasis on sales, marketing and business development. "It's a classic case of a very strong technology company but not all the strength necessarily on the sales and marketing side early on," Coleman said.

Echoing that statement, Kenneth Fox, a Commerx board member and managing director of ICG, said in the Oct. 26 Commerx press release announcing the changes: "For some time now, Commerx has been evolving its business model from a provider of public e-marketplaces to a builder and operator of private e-business networks. In naming Jeff Garwood as our interim CEO, the board is confident that it has acted appropriately to ensure Commerx's long-term viability."

Garwood's appointment is the latest move in a series of restructuring developments at Commerx. On Oct. 20, responding to the prolonged downturn in the public markets and after having secured more than $19 million in private investments, Commerx filed with the Securities and Exchanges Commission and withdrew its plans for an initial public offering. Commerx has also recently announced workforce reductions across various levels of the organization.

"This is a crucial time for Commerx," said Garwood. "As we continue to shift our corporate strategy to meet market demands, it will be essential that the company distinguish itself from competitors, attract the right mix of customers and ultimately position itself for growth and profitability."

Stojka was conciliatory and supportive in his statement included in the Commerx press release announcing the changes. "This move is in the best, long-term interest of Commerx," Stojka said. "Jeff [Garwood] has been a central figure in the evolution of our business. I fully support his elevation to interim CEO."

Prior to his elevation as interim CEO, Garwood was responsible for Commerx's day-to-day business operations. As the company migrated from an online exchange to a builder and operator of private trading networks, Garwood drove the selection, development and implementation of the Commerx flagship suite of solutions. Garwood also oversaw the development of Commerx's systems integration process and the delivery of customer solutions.

Garwood joined the Commerx senior management team in 1999 after having held a number of senior-level management positions with General Electric, including developing globalization and customer service initiatives. Garwood also spent five years as a management consultant specializing in change management strategies at McKinsey & Company.

On Oct. 23, three days prior to the announcement of the restructuring, Commerx was named to Deloitte & Touche's prestigious Fast 50 Program, a ranking of the 50 fastest growing technology companies in the Chicago area. Commerx was named a Rising Star, a distinction awarded to those companies that have exceeded aggressive growth criteria in a short period of time.

Ironically, the same day Commerx was awarded this distinction, Bloomberg reported that ICG was planning to run a national advertising campaign to better explain its portfolio of e-commerce companies to investors. ICG took this step after seeing its stock drop 95 percent from its peak, according to Bloomberg.