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Road Runner steps up search for CEO

The high-speed Internet access provider turns to the same headhunter firm used by Microsoft, Netscape, and @Home Networks.

High-speed Internet access provider Road Runner has turned to the same headhunter firm used by Microsoft, Netscape Communications, and @Home Networks to find a full-time leader.

The company, which has been without a permanent chief executive for eight months, offers Net access via cable modems and maintains the No. 2 position in the market behind @Home Network.

Road Runner has been led since last June by interim chief executive Carl Rossetti, an executive vice president at Time Warner Cable.

Rossetti oversees the day-to-day operations but has otherwise kept a low profile and never intended to lead the company long-term, according to a Road Runner spokeswoman. Enter Ramsey Beirne Associates.

The executive search firm, which has landed chief executives for eBay, Excite, and Healtheon, among others, is conducting the search for Road Runner, managing partner Alan Seiler confirmed.

But executives at Ramsey Beirne and at Road Runner remain tight-lipped about the search, offering no details on when a new leader might be named or how many finalists are in contention.

"We never discuss our clients or what we are doing for them. I can only tell you we are doing fantastic," Seiler said, citing his company's policy against commenting on ongoing searches.

Ramsey Beirne, led by Benchmark Capital general partner David Beirne, has plenty of experience finding executives for the nascent cable modem market.

The company landed @Home chief financial officer Ken Goldman in May 1996 and later lured former Silicon Graphics executive Tom Jermoluk to the data-over-cable company as CEO in August 1996. More recently, Ramsey Beirne recruited John O'Farrell, a former US West executive, as @Home's international senior vice president last April.

Some industry observers have speculated that a permanent CEO is unlikely to come from within one of Road Runner's partner companies, since an announcement would likely have been made months ago.

Road Runner is a joint venture between cable operators Time Warner and MediaOne Group, Compaq Computer, Microsoft, and Advance/Newhouse. The company ended 1998 with 180,000 subscribers.