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New CEO at eHarmony: A Sign of an Upcoming IPO?


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January 10, 2006

New CEO at eHarmony: A Sign of an Upcoming IPO?

Olga Kharif

Dating site eHarmony just announced it's brought in a new CEO. Long-time CEO Greg Forgatch -- married to a daughter of Dr. Neil Clark Warren (the affable, fatherly figure from eHarmony commercials)-- has just stepped down "to pursue other interests." I believe this executive change marks the end of the era when eHarmony operated like a family-run business -- and could mark the beginning of eHarmony as a public company.

The new CEO, Jaynie M. Studenmund, is starting on Feb. 1 (Forgatch will remain on the company's board). And I think that her appointment could indicate that eHarmony is readying an IPO -- or a sale.

Here's why: Studenmund has established relationships with various banks. An eHarmony board member since August 2005, she was a board member for Countrywide Bank, aQuantive, Western Asset, and Forest Lawn. As you see, at least a few of these names are investment banks. And close ties to investment banks are vital when going public.

Until early 2004, Studenmund was the chief operating officer for Overture Services, now part of Yahoo!. Before then, she was the president and COO of PayMyBills.com, the largest bill management service on the Internet. Perhaps she could help eHarmony get acquired by someone like Yahoo! -- or to forge a close relationship with that portal.

My bet, though, is that eHarmony is reshuffling its management team (it's made several executive changes since this fall) in preparation for going public.

Analysts have predicted that eHarmony would go public for months. And the last time I talked with eHarmony execs about six months ago, the company hinted that it might, in the future, consider various financing options.

I don't think the executive changes are a sign of trouble. eHarmony is working with partners like Gannett and Friendster, and its membership of more than eight million people is growing. In September, the company expanded its customer care operations. So, all signs seem to show that eHarmony is blooming.

So I wouldn't be surprised if eHarmony goes public soon, and if its PO is a success.

05:01 PM

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