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Key Netscape exec Ariko stepping down

Barry Ariko, a senior executive at America Online's Netscape unit, says he is stepping down from his role in the Sun Microsystems-AOL alliance.

Barry Ariko, a senior executive at America Online's Netscape unit, said today he has stepped down from his role in the Sun Microsystems-AOL alliance.

He is the latest of a string of executives to step down from key posts at the company. Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen left his post as AOL's chief technology officer last month.

Ariko today told CNET that although he has stepped down from his role as the deputy general manager representing AOL and Netscape in the Sun-AOL alliance, which he helped get up and running during the past six months, he will remain at AOL for the time being.

Ariko added that he is not sure how long he will remain at AOL and declined to comment on what his role will be with the online giant.

"I would rather not say since it has not been determined," Ariko said.

Ariko, considered a star executive by many in the industry, joined Netscape in 1998 as executive vice president and chief operating officer after serving as executive vice president and a member of the executive management committee at database giant Oracle.

Other senior Netscape executives who have left include former chief executive Jim Barksdale, former chief administrative officer Peter Currie, former investor relations and new business development manager Quincy Smith, former global public policy counsel Peter Harter, former senior vice president of business development Jennifer Bailey, and former general counsel Roberta Katz.

Analysts are not surprised that Ariko may want to distance himself from Netscape and its parent company, where he has not been basking in the kind of limelight he may have expected since the AOL-Netscape merger last fall.

"[Ariko] came in as a celebrated person from Oracle, but his role at a large company like AOL is a lot more muted than it would have been at Oracle or at an independent Netscape--which is where he signed up originally to be," said Abhishek Gami, an analyst at investment bank William Blair. "I continue to think that the Netscape software business is perceived as being nothing but upside--gravy business, if you will."

Said Ariko, "I joined Netscape as the COO with the notion of running the company, so it's always been in my mind to be the CEO of a company."

Asked where he sees himself down the road if he leaves AOL completely, Ariko said: "If it comes to that, I would obviously look to something in the Internet space to drive--either a start-up or an existing company that needs leadership."