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Infoseek loses two top execs

In its latest round of management musical chairs, the search engine announces the departure of two top executives.

In its latest round of management musical chairs, Infoseek (SEEK) today announced the departure of two top executives.

Leonard LeBlanc, Infoseek's chief financial officer who just two months ago was given the additional responsibility of COO, will resign from both posts on July 7. He also will step down immediately from the board of directors. LeBlanc joined the company in 1996.

Infoseek also announced the resignation of Peter Rip, vice president and general manager of the Infoseek Network. He will also leave July 7.

The departures mark the latest management shakeup at the search engine company, which is fighting to gain more market share. Last May, chief executive Robin Johnson abruptly resigned. His post was filled by Harry Motro, who had arrived the previous month as president.

Motro is now left standing among a smaller executive team that includes John Nauman, vice president of engineering, and Drew Newton, general council, said spokesman Steve Grady.

"Harry now has the opportunity to build a management team to move the company in the right direction," said Grady. "We will see Harry's stamp on the company, but our strategy remains the same," he added.

Infoseek's goal is to be a pointer to content, not a destination site. Its competitor Yahoo, for example, has geographically specific sites as well as content like news, maps, yellow pages, classifieds, and financial and travel services.

"Our primary goal is to build context, not content. We want to be the middleman, not a free online service," said Grady.

Grady added that although Infoseek has seen many changes, each one is unique.

"These are all individual cases. This is a fast-moving business that we are in, and as businesses grow quickly, they are bound to go through transition periods," said Grady.

He added that Infoseek currently has about 150 employees, up from about 70 employees at this time last year.

Right now, the company said its No. 1 priority is to fill key positions like LeBlanc's job. It is looking both internally and, through a search firm, externally, Grady said.

In early trading today, the stock dropped as much as 1-1/4, about 20 percent, from Friday's close of 6-3/8, but then regained much of the loss. The search company is just two days away from its one-year anniversary in the public realm.

Search engine companies continue to face growing competition. While online advertising dollars are on the rise, more players are entering the market. Many analysts think that those dollars will go to the few industry leaders.

For its first quarter ending in March, the search site's traffic increased 33 percent from the previous quarter, bringing visitors to about 6 million a day, up from 4.2 million in the previous quarter. The number of advertisers also grew 6 percent to 293.

Other search sites were mixed in morning trading: Lycos (LCOS) was up 1/4; Excite (XCIT) was down 1/4; Yahoo (YHOO) was up 7/8.