Hart looks to jettison Excite@Home content

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The new CEO at Excite@Home is looking to step back from the companies content operations, but is more inclined to craft joint ventures than sell the properties outright.

That's part of the plan new Chairman, President and CEO Patti Hart has to stop the bleeding at Excite@Home while growing what the company now considers its core business, the high-speed internet service it provides to cable operators.

Hart wound up on top Excite@Home after a tumultuous corporate courtship in which the company suddenly revealed that it was nearly out of cash, down to about $105 million or three months' worth. Industry executives said that even though they were in the in the final hours of inking a deal to become just president and CEO, the now-ousted Excite@Home Chairman George Bell and other company officials kept her largely in the dark about how desparate the company's financial condition had become.

Hart wouldn't detail what happened to Bell, who had insisted that he would stay until at least next year. But she says she neither demanded his head or his title. "I'm not a person that draws lines in the sand and makes demands," Hart said. She added that she was "completely informed and comfortable" of Excite@Home's financial condition during the negotiations.

Hart's task is now to unwind the mess Jermoluk and Bell created. Jermoluk panicked about the @Home high-speed Internet lack of content in a market where Internet contnet was gold and distibution was lead. Now, of course, the tables are turned and Internet content is the heavy drag on cash flow and operations with subscribers that acutally write checks are prized.

So Hart is looking at what to do with the Excite portal, Matchlogic ad support business and the Bluemountainarts.com greeting card web site, for which Bell and Jermoluk paid $1 billion - a big chunk of that in cash - just a year ago. Of course, since she can't get much selling those kinds of assets in today's market, Hart's looking for more toward partners who can help bring the businesses though today's cash crunch and weather the recession.

"I'm not convinced that it all needs to be shed," Hart said. "But it needs to be addressed because it's not creating the shareholder value today." - John Higgins

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