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Infoseek execs make an exit

The company is experiencing an exodus this quarter, with at least five managers and two producers jumping ship.

    Infoseek is experiencing an exodus this quarter, with at least five managers and two producers jumping ship.

    Barak Berkowitz, the Infoseek senior vice president who oversaw the launch of the Go Network, already has left the company, according to Infoseek spokeswoman Amanda Higgins.

    Higgins said the departures are unrelated and happened over a period of time. She said Disney, which owns 43 percent of Infoseek, had nothing to do with the departures, and most of them happened before the company reported flat first-quarter earnings of $30 million earlier this month.

    "There were several management levels leaving for various reasons," Higgins said.

    But the departures come as analysts still are questioning the strategy behind the Go Network and Disney's See news analysis: Will Disney's Go Network pay off? relationship with Infoseek. The Go Network, which features a number of Disney content offerings--including ABCNews.com, ESPN.com, and Mr. Showbiz, among others--within one "destination," or hub, site, is off to a slower-than-expected start, observers say, and it faces some bumps in the road ahead.

    Along with Infoseek's flat earnings, which executives blamed partially on a "wait-and-see" attitude toward Go from advertisers, the Go Network also is facing a trademark lawsuit filed by search engine GoTo.com that seeks to remove the Go Network's logo because it allegedly creates confusion with GoTo's own logo.

    For its part, Disney is accustomed to executive turnover within its Web ranks. The roster of Disney defections since the deal with Infoseek includes Disney Online president Richard Wolpert, Disney Online vice president David Vogler, Family.com vice president Susan Wyland, Buena Vista Internet Group senior vice president Winnie Wechsler, and Starwave veteran Tom Phillips, who is now chief executive at Deja News.

    Higgins said that despite the departures, Infoseek's turnover has been below the industry average. But Patrick Keane, senior analyst at Jupiter Communications, said the company has seen "a lot" of turnover and turmoil since Disney bought into Infoseek last June. He said the latest departures are "significant."

    "It's a potential signal that maybe things aren't working there and maybe some changes need to be made," Keane said.

    "Any faults are going to be under a tremendous microscope at both places," Keane added.

    The departing managers oversaw such areas as customer service, international partnerships, and communications. The departing producers managed the finance and travel areas of the Go Network. Berkowitz was in charge of marketing and international operations.

    Higgins said Berkowitz's departure was mutually agreed upon between Berkowitz and Harry Motro, Infoseek's chief executive. Although Berkowitz already has left the company, he will be working with Infoseek during a transition period, Higgins said.

    Berkowitz was unavailable for comment.

    Higgins said that Jim Morouse, Infoseek's vice president of marketing, also will be leaving the company. Morouse had assumed Berkowitz's marketing responsibilities and will remain with Infoseek until the company finds a replacement for him.

    Higgins said Morouse was formerly with Bellevue, Washington-based Starwave and came to the company when Infoseek acquired Starwave as part of the Disney deal. She said that Infoseek wanted Morouse's position to be located in the company's Sunnyvale, California, headquarters, but Morouse preferred to remain in the Seattle area for "personal reasons."

    "He was not willing at this time to make the move to Sunnyvale," Higgins said.

    The departures were first reported today by the Wall Street Journal.

    News.com's Jim Hu contributed to this report.