First CEO exits open-source software start-up

Great Bridge, a company that is trying to commercialize open-source database software, has appointed a new CEO after earlier executives didn't see eye-to-eye.

Stephen Shankland
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Great Bridge, a start-up that is trying to commercialize open-source database software, has appointed a new CEO after earlier executives didn't see eye-to-eye.

The Norfolk, Va.-based company is a subsidiary of Landmark Communications, which owns the Weather Channel and other media outlets. Great Bridge's new CEO, Bob Gilbert, previously worked as the vice president of Landmark's new venture fund and was instrumental in setting up Great Bridge.

Though Great Bridge is less than 8 months old, a disagreement between Landmark chairman Frank Batten and Great Bridge's first chief executive, Al Ritter, led to Ritter's recent exit.

"Al and Frank and everyone at the company had a consistent view about how big an opportunity this is. What they didn't come to terms with was the pathway for getting there," Gilbert said in an interview. "Al was gracious enough to back out."

Before taking over Great Bridge, Ritter was Landmark's chief financial officer.

Great Bridge plans to sell a version of PostgreSQL database software that's easy to install and use on a variety of Linux versions, Gilbert said. The company is in discussions with Linux sellers to try to win a place on their CDs of bundled software, he said.

The company also plans to offer support services and is employing core PostgreSQL programmers to help with the effort, Gilbert said. The company has hired Tom Lane and has contracted with Jan Wieck, but it doesn't plan to hire all six of the core PostgreSQL programmers.

"We don't think it would be good for the open-source PostgreSQL effort to confiscate the core team," Gilbert said. "Much of it needs to be independent of us."

The moves at Great Bridge come amid the hiring of several other new chief executives in the world of open-source software, a sector that has been popularized by the success of the cooperatively developed Linux operating system.

Sendmail, which sells email software and support, has a new CEO from mainframe and services giant Amdahl. French Linux seller MandrakeSoft, Apache Web server software seller Covalent Technologies, and the Netmax Linux server software division of CyberNet also recently hired new CEOs.

In addition, management changes are under way at Ebiz Enterprise's Linux Store, following a merger with LinuxMall. With the merger completed Aug. 7, Linux Store CEO Jeffrey Rassas is now chairman and chief strategy officer of the combined company, while LinuxMall CEO David Shaw is chief executive.

The combined company, Ebiz Enterprises, will move its headquarters to Scottsdale, Ariz., and the company is cutting the number of workers from more than 100 to between 70 and 80, Shaw said. The company plans to hire new sales and consulting staff members, however.

The company is publicly traded over the counter under the ticker "EBIZ," but the company has "aggressive hopes" that it will move to the Nasdaq in the near future, Shaw said.

The new company plans to combine LinuxMall's software focus with the Linux Store's hardware focus, Shaw said. The company will sell combined hardware, the Linux operating system and higher-level programs, he said. The combined company's Internet business will continue under the name LinuxMall.