Priceline's top auto exec quits; two others leave

The name-your-own-price e-tailer loses the head of its automotive services business along with two other executives, a week after reporting disappointing earnings and announcing the departure of its chief financial officer.

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Priceline.com lost three executives last week, the company said Wednesday, a week after the name-your-own-price e-tailer reported disappointing earnings and announced the departure of its chief financial officer.

Though the company did not formally announce the departure of Maryann Keller, who led Priceline's automotive services business, a company spokesman confirmed Keller left in tandem with ex-CFO Heidi Miller.

Keller "resigned at the same time we announced our third-quarter earnings," said Brian Ek, a spokesman for the Norwalk, Conn.-based company. Ek, who would not comment on the reason for Keller's departure, said the company chose not to make a formal announcement at the time.

Pamela Caputo, who was most recently vice president of the auto services division, replaces Keller as the new president. Caputo joined the company in January of this year.

Priceline also said that William Pike, vice president of financial planning and investor relations, and Allison McEnerney, director of investor relations, also quit last week. Pike joined the company in April from Citigroup where he was director of investor relations. McEnerney also came from Citigroup, the big U.S. financial services company.

Shares of Priceline hit a new 52-week low of $3.22 Wednesday. The stock ended the day down $1.03, or about 24 percent, to $3.25 on the Nasdaq.

Keller joined Priceline in July 1999 after serving as an auto analyst at investment research company ING Barings.

Like a number of Priceline's properties, the car-buying service lets customers name the exact car or truck they want and the price they want to pay. Priceline then submits offers to authorized dealers in the area to try to locate a dealer that matches the customer's request.

Keller told The Wall Street Journal that she left the company after she was asked to lay off half of her 23-person staff as part of a restructuring unveiled last week. She also said consumers are just not ready to purchase cars over the Internet.

Though Priceline was once a highflyer in the competitive market for online travel and other services, the company last week posted a loss and laid off 87 employees, and it continues to struggle to remain afloat. The company expects revenue to decrease in the fourth quarter.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.