Weeks after news broke that flash sales giant Gilt Groupe put its travel deals site, Jetsetter, up for sale, the Wall Street Journal reports that Gilt is looking for a new CEO to replace company founder Kevin Ryan. Sources told the Journal that Mr. Ryan and the Gilt board agreed two months ago to quietly begin the hunt for a new CEO who can help usher the struggling e-commerce site towards a successful IPO.
Despite flailing forays into verticals like menswear and travel, Gilt is still eyeing going public within the next 18 months, and wants a CEO who can revamp Mr. Ryan’s business strategy in order to “generate sufficiently predictable profits.”
This is the second high-level shakeup in four years for the New York-based e-commerce company. In September 2008, Susan Lyne was brought in to head the company, but was then replaced by Mr. Ryan in 2010 as Gilt was poised to expand into new markets.
Gilt has not been without its stumbles. Back in January, the company laid off 90 employees, closing Gilt City offices in six different markets.
UPDATE 2 p.m.: Betabeat spoke with a source close to the company who offered a different version of events. According to the source, it was never Mr. Ryan’s intent to stay on as Gilt Groupe’s CEO through its transition into a public company.
Gilt Groupe is one of three companies in the AlleyCorp network, along with 10Gen and Business Insider–both prominent, fast-growth New York startups. Mr. Ryan’s business partner Dwight Merriman, a fellow DoubleClick veteran, also does not have plans to stay on as CEO, should 10Gen go public, added the source.
Considering Mr. Ryan’s tenure at Gilt, the source also scoffed at the idea that the board, where Mr. Ryan has voting power, was searching for someone with more ecommerce experience. Rather, the source said the board had always been aware of Mr. Ryan’s intent and with an IPO possibly happening within six months to a year, it was time to start the search.
Now that 10Gen is busy scaling–the source said 10Gen had raised $50 million at a $500 million valuation–Mr. Ryan will be advising on matters like sales, as opposed to 10Gen’s early day when Mr. Merriman, DoubleClick’s former CTO, exclusively handled 10Gen for AlleyCorp. Mr. Ryan also recently joined the board of the Yale Corporation, which manages a $19.3 billion endowment.
The source said Mr. Ryan is expected to still devote the bulk of his time to Gilt and will keep his office with the company, returning to the type of role he had in his previous post at Gilt’s chairman.
Nitasha Tiku contributed reporting to this article.