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Connect chairman named CEO

The struggling electronic commerce software firm gets a new CEO after its chief executive resigns for personal reasons.

Struggling e-commerce software firm Connect (CNKT) today announced that it named its chairman, Gordon Bridge, to the CEO spot after its chief executive quit.

The resignation of CEO and president Thomas Kehler comes just a week after the company reported that first-quarter sales are expected to fall below Wall Street expectations. The stock, which traded as high as 10 in October, skidded on the news, falling by nearly 50 percent from 4 a share. Connect's shares, however, closed today at 1-3/4, up 1/16 over yesterday.

Two of the four investment analysts who follow Connect, which went public last August, had downgraded their recommendations on the company following its preliminary results.

Bridge joined Connect in November 1995 from AT&T, where he held high-level management positions in its computer and online divisions. He was responsible for a major services contract with Connect while at AT&T. Bridge also previously worked at IBM for 23 years.

Kehler, who will remain a major shareholder, also resigned his board seat.

Connect is a high-end provider of software for Internet commerce specializing in complex systems. Its customers include 3Com, Fruit of the Loom, and Reader's Digest.

Bridge has been active in Connect's management after joining the company as a director, helping it to make the transition from a services firm to an application software vendor, said Connect CFO Joe Girata.

"This will be a relatively seamless transition. Gordon is intimately familiar with the company, so this is not a restart or 'Let's change' situation," Girata said. He added Bridge's experience in IBM sales and marketing jobs will help address Connect's revenue shortfall.

Connect's niche is growing more competitive, however, as companies such as IBM, Open Market, and BroadVision crowd into its market sector.

The company's sales may have been hurt by delays in closing deals. The company, which had $1.5 million in first-quarter revenues last year, expects first-quarter revenues of $2 million to $2.5 million. Connect plans to report its first-quarter results April 23.