Peter Kafka

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Forbes.com CEO Jim Spanfeller Out. Here’s the Internal Memo.

jim-spanfellerForbes.com CEO Jim Spanfeller, who has run one of the Web’s biggest finance sites for the last nine years, is leaving the company at the end of the summer. No replacement has been named.

Spanfeller’s departure comes amid a flurry of bad news for finance publications. In April, Condé Nast pulled the plug on Portfolio, its business magazine and Web site, after a very expensive two-year run. Earlier this week, publisher McGraw-Hill (MHP) announced that it was shopping BusinessWeek, and observers are floating the notion that the company may end up giving the magazine away to anyone who wants to take on its annual losses.

Time Warner’s (TWX) Fortune magazine has also been battered by the recession, which has been particularly hard on the finance, auto and luxury-good companies that business publications have traditionally relied upon. And Forbes itself has gone through multiple rounds of layoffs since last fall.

In a memo to the company’s employees, Forbes CEO Steve Forbes praised Spanfeller for building out the company’s Web property, which says it receives 18 million unique visitors a month.In the aftermath of the dot.com crash, Spanfeller helped turn Forbes.com, which the family-owned company was close to shutting down, into a powerhouse.

But Forbes’s plan to take the Web property public earlier in the decade never panned out. And once Forbes sold a 40 percent stake to private equity investors Elevation Partners three years ago, plenty of Forbes employees, including me, had speculated that Spanfeller would look for a job that promised a big payout. That said, it wasn’t that long ago that Spanfeller was the victor in a power struggle with Jim Berrien, the former publisher of the Forbes print edition.

The news was first reported by AOL’s Daily Finance. Here’s the company memo from CEO Steve Forbes:

To: All Hands

From Steve Forbes

July 16, 2009

Jim Spanfeller, President and CEO of Forbes.com has decided to step down from leading our website after nine years. In the entrepreneurial spirit that Forbes has always championed, Jim will be setting up his own media management company.

Describing his future plans Jim said, “The world of media has changed rapidly in the past 10 years and the velocity of the change promises only to increase going forward. I’ve had a great run at Forbes and have been deeply involved in the breakthroughs and transformations between traditional and digital media.  Now I see a huge opportunity to have my own media management business that will help other traditional media companies make the most of their enormous prospects in digital venues, taking all I have learned here in the past decade and applying on a wider horizon. Forbes.com has truly been a truly wonderful ride and I am deeply in debt to the Forbes family for letting me be a part of it.”

Jim has done a monumental job of bringing Forbes.com to the lead position in business websites, and secured Forbes.com as the must visit site for not only global business leaders but also anyone interested in the finest business reporting and analysis available. At present Forbes.com has 18 million unique visitors a month.

Along the way, Jim has overseen the development and growth of Forbes Digital, which includes Forbes.com, ForbesTraveler.com, Investopedia.com, RealClearPolitics.com, RealClearMarkets.com, Real Clear Sports, and Forbes Business and Finance Blog Network, which together reach 40 million unique visitors a month.

This immense growth on the digital side of the business was spearheaded, pursed, and led by Jim with enormous success. The digital world is still uncharted with few rules, and Jim’s intellect, creativity, and business acumen helped bring us our number one position. For this the Forbes family is very grateful and we wish him all the success in his future plans.

Since Elevation Partners partnered with Forbes three years ago, Jim has worked very closely with them on the growth and development and vision for Forbes.com.  Commenting on Jim’s departure, Roger McNamee of Elevation said, “Jim did a fantastic job leading Forbes.com. In an era when competitors feared it, Jim embraced and evangelized the internet, with huge benefits to Forbes and its audiences. We are grateful for his contributions over the past nine years.”

Jim will be staying through a transition period at least through Labor Day. Please join me and my brothers in wishing Jim all the best in the future, which he deserves.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus