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Go.com names new executive to head portal overhaul

Walt Disney names a new general manager to oversee development of its Web portal, as part of the company's ongoing efforts to revamp its struggling Internet offerings.

Walt Disney's Go.com has named a new general manager to oversee development of its Web portal, as part of the company's ongoing efforts to revamp its struggling Internet offerings.

Go.com, the entertainment giant's Net division, yesterday appointed Rajiv Samant to run the day-to-day operations of its Go Network portal. Samant, who has had stints at IBM and Intel, will primarily oversee the portal's evolution, including its ongoing shift toward becoming a site more focused on entertainment and leisure.

Samant becomes the latest executive tapped to run the Go Network--a position for which it has become difficult for the company to retain talent. Early this year, Kevin Meyer, Go.com's general manager, left the company to become CEO of Playboy.com.

After Meyer's departure, Go.com marketing manager Judy Fearing was tapped to serve as acting general manager. Fearing, however, left Go.com earlier this summer, according to a source close to the company.

Go.com encompasses Disney's myriad Web properties, including its Go Network portal, ESPN.com, ABC.com and Disney Online. The site was developed on the back of Infoseek, which Disney acquired to jump-start its attempts to compete with Yahoo and America Online. Go.com ranks as the sixth-largest Net destination, with 23 million unique users, according to online measurement firm Media Metrix.

"The reason why Disney bought Infoseek was its great search technology," said a Go.com representative.

The Go Network is undergoing an overhaul. In January, the company said it would step away from competing directly against market leaders Yahoo and AOL and instead would undergo a metamorphosis to become an entertainment and leisure destination. The company has retained consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and Web design company Razorfish to assist with a cosmetic makeover of the site.

The site is also redesigning its logo with the assistance of consumer ad firm Cliff Freeman & Partners. The company was ordered to take down its original logo after it settled a lawsuit filed by search engine GoTo.com, which alleged that Go.com's logo too closely resembled its own image.

The Go Network's future remains a work in progress. Once it had sole control over the Web efforts of all Disney media brands, but the site has become a standalone focusing on core functions such as search and Web services. With the relaunch expected soon, the site may become the search brand for Disney's online efforts.