Vizzavi parts company with chief executive and cuts 100 jobs in shake-up

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The Independent Online

Vizzavi, an internet portal for mobile phone users, yesterday parted company with its chief executive, announced plans to axe 100 jobs and restructured its business model.

The company, which is jointly owned by the mobile phone giant Vodafone and France's Vivendi, said its chief executive, Evan Newmark, would leave the business at the end of this month. He will be replaced by Guy Laurence, currently the chief marketing officer.

A Vizzavi spokesmansaid Mr Newmark, who had been with the company since it formed in May 2000, felt it was a "good time to review his own options".

His departure follows a review of the way Vizzavi charges for the content on its website and the level of income it receives from Vodafone for getting users to spend longer on their mobile phones by accessing the portal.

As a result of that review, the company, based on The Strand in London, said it expected to cut 100 jobs across its eight European operations from its 800-strong workforce. It said it was still unclear where the bulk of the job losses would fall.

When Vizzavi was launched, Vodafone and Vivendi said they would re-examine the company's revenue and cost-sharing model within two years to reflect changes in the market.

Under Vizzavi's new business plan, the mobile phone operators Vodafone and France's SFR will give Vizzavi up to 5 per cent of the revenues it gains from mobile phone users accessing the Vizzavi internet portal. In addition, Vizzavi will keep 80 per cent of the revenues generated by mobile phone users buying "premium content" on the site such as different ringtones for their handsets as well as logos and games.

Under the old business model, Vizzavi took a 50 per cent share of the gross margin generated from sales.

Vodafone and Vivendi, which said yesterday that the new business model emphasised the "added value" Vizzavi could offer consumers, remained "confident" the company would achieve its target of breaking even by the end of next year.

Jean-Marie Messier, the chairman and chief executive of Vivendi, said the revised business model would give Vizzavi "more commercial and financial flexibility".

In the final quarter of last year, Vizzavi increased its users by 42 per cent over the previous quarter, to 6.3 million.

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