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Online real estate site Zillow today is announcing a change that was a long time coming. CEO Rich Barton — who is working on “four or five” startups (see previous coverage), is a venture partner at Benchmark Capital, and is on the board of Netflix (s NFLX) — is stepping down to allow his more focused lieutenant, COO Spencer Rascoff, the top spot. Barton will remain executive chairman and keep his office next to Rascoff’s.
Though trying to make a positive news story out of a CEO stepping down is a round-peg-square-hole kind of problem, Barton maintains that Zillow’s prospects are great. In fact, the company is announcing it’s profitable for the first time today, and keeps hinting it wants to go public. Barton founded Expedia (s EXPE), and served as its president and CEO through its IPO and subsequent purchase, so he’s qualified to run Zillow — but he said he’s too distracted to do so.
“It’s not like I don’t like operations and running stuff,” Barton said in an interview today. “It’s that I like to do a lot of things, and the CEO of a company with 200 employees and the potential to be the biggest brand in real estate should be somebody that’s completely focused and driven.”
Rascoff has been at Zillow five years and was named COO two years ago. In addition to Zillow’s content business of providing home sales and rental information, the company’s mortgage marketplace is a fast-growing product, Rascoff said. (However, LendingTree sued Zillow and others last week for patent infringement of its system for pairing borrowers and lenders.) Zillow reported 12.5 million unique users in August (a year-over-year increase of 41 percent) and said it sees 15-to-20 percent of weekend traffic from its popular mobile apps. Both Rascoff and Barton said they expected Zillow to go public, but wouldn’t set a timeline.
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