Jared Rowe returns to roots, named CEO of AutoWeb

Jared Rowe

UPDATED: 4/13/18 3:39 pm ET – adds age, photo

Jared Rowe, former president of Cox Automotive Media, is the new CEO of AutoWeb Inc., returning to the company where he began his digital career when it was known as Autobytel.

He succeeds Jeffrey Coats, the company’s CEO for more than a decade, AutoWeb said late Thursday. The change is effective immediately.

At Cox Automotive, Rowe, 44, was responsible for leading the Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Dealer.com and Haystack businesses. He left Cox in August 2016. After that, Rowe was president of YP Holdings, where he improved YellowPages.com’s business operations and oversaw its eventual sale to Dex Media in 2017.

Before those positions, Rowe worked at AutoWeb’s predecessor as manager of strategic business development in 1998.

“It’s been nearly 20 years since I kicked off my digital marketing career at the former Autobytel. I am excited to rejoin AutoWeb to lead the continued evolution of this digital marketing platform,” Rowe said in a statement. “It is important to provide our clients with detailed attribution that enables them to understand the value and ROI our services and products provide.

“We have a solid foundation to build from with an established brand, advanced technology, an extremely talented team and clients that value the quality of our products. I look forward to leveraging my experiences to help return AutoWeb to growth by introducing new strategies and initiatives that I believe will unlock the company’s full potential and maximize shareholder value.”

‘Revitalize’

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In the same statement, AutoWeb Chairman Michael Fuchs said: “Jared has a strong track record of successfully implementing strategic plans to revitalize automotive businesses competing in the e-commerce industry. His leadership and restructuring at YP Holdings and Cox Automotive led to material operating improvements and enhanced competitive positioning.”

The change at AutoWeb had been anticipated, with the Irvine, Calif., company saying on March 8 that Coats would step down when a successor was found. CFO Kimberly Boren also stepped down, effective April 12, with Wesley Ozima named interim CFO.

In 2017, AutoWeb’s revenue fell 9.3 percent to $142.1 million. It swung to a net loss of $65 million from a net profit of $3.9 million a year earlier.

The net loss included a fourth-quarter noncash charge to income tax of $25.4 million, as well as a goodwill impairment charge of $37.7 million.

“Despite recent struggles with our traffic acquisition, we’ve dramatically increased the company’s addressable market over the last several years through targeted acquisitions, while establishing AutoWeb as the largest supplier of online leads to every major OEM in the country,” Coats said in a statement when the company released its fourth-quarter earnings, also on March 8.

“Demand for leads and clicks from our customers remained strong in Q4. However, we were unable to fully meet this demand due to higher traffic acquisition costs. Though our Q4 results certainly weren’t acceptable to us, we believe we have been taking the appropriate actions to address these traffic issues and mitigate the impact to profitability.

“Just last month, we realigned our headcount and expect it to reduce operating expenses by $2 million on an annual basis,” he said at the time.

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