Barnesandnoble.com announced late yesterday the sudden resignation of CEO Jonathan Bulkeley.
Bulkeley resigned to devote his time to European online auctioneer QXL, where he is the non-executive chairman, as well as to his other investments, according to a company statement.
Barnes & Noble Inc. COO Steve Riggio will become vice chairman and acting CEO of the company. "We owe much to Jonathan Bulkeley for the leadership role he played for the past 12 months," Mr. Riggio said. "During that time, he helped build the foundation upon which the company's future will be determined."
Riggio, who founded the company's Internet arm, will immediately relinquish his role at Barnes and Noble in order to run the online bookseller's operations.
The company is looking for a permanent replacement.
Barnes & Noble owns 40 percent of Barnesandnoble.com and Bertelsmann owns another 40 percent. Before coming to Barnesandnoble.com, Bulkeley served as the U.K. managing director of a joint venture between Bertelsmann and America Online.
Barnesandnoble.com announced last week that its fourth-quarter sales had tripled to $81.5 million, from $25.9 million during the same period a year ago.
The company ended 1999 with total sales of $200 million, soaring up from $61.8 million in 1998. Its operating losses are expected to be in line with First Call's consensus of 27 cents a share, according to the company.
Barnesandnoble.com will release a complete version of its fourth-quarter financials later this month.
The company also added 1.1 million new customers in the latest quarter, bringing the total to 4 million.
It remains dwarfed by its largest book-selling competitor, Amazon.com, which claims some 13 million customers.
Nonetheless, the company is forging ahead to compete with Amazon in other areas. While 90 percent of Barnesandnoble.com's revenues last year came from the sale of books, the company expects that ratio to skew more heavily toward the sales of music, posters and other items this year, Bulkeley said in an earlier release.
One new market it hopes to tap is that of electronic books. The company announced a partnership earlier this month with Microsoft to use the Redmond company's Microsoft Reader application. Barnesandnoble.com will incorporate Microsoft's Clearview technology, which helps consumers read smaller type on screens. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.