WESTCHESTER, ILL. (Dec. 13, 5:50 p.m. EST) — Online company Commerx Inc. has added a chapter to its corporate revolving door by laying off nearly half its employees, choosing a new chief executive officer and readjusting its Web site.
On Dec. 4, Commerx named David O´Meara as chief executive officer. O´Meara, 47, had served as Commerx vice president of corporate development. He has held executive positions with software provider Sterling Commerce Inc. and with European telecommunications giant Unisource Network Services Inc.
The directional change also has meant an exodus by several top Commerx executives, many of whom came from plastics companies.
The latest to leave is Jeffrey Garwood, a former GE Plastics executive who joined Commerx in 1999 as chief operating officer. Garwood had served as interim chief executive officer since late October.
Westchester-based Commerx has made major internal shifts since announcing a new direction in June. The company had been a pioneer in online plastics trading, launching the PlasticsNet Web site in 1995 and adding purchasing functions last year.
The company changed focus six months ago, citing thin profit from trading volumes and the need for companies to connect their supply chains. Commerx now offers Web-based purchasing linking companies online with their suppliers.
In an October interview, Garwood had said he would leave Commerx if he was not offered the permanent CEO position. Commerx´s six-person board decided unanimously on O´Meara, who has more extensive leadership experience with online technology and finance, said Commerx spokeswoman Christina Silvio. "Jeff is pursuing other CEO-level positions," Silvio said. "He provided leadership at Commerx during a transitional time for us."
Garwood had been named interim CEO when Chairman Tim Stojka resigned the CEO position. Stojka remains at the company, but not in a day-to-day role.
Commerx also has reduced staff based on its shifting strategy, Silvio said. After assessing employee needs, Commerx laid off 45 workers the week of Dec. 4, Silvio said.
The company now has 64 employees, down from about 165 in July. Among those who have departed recently are Chief Financial Officer David Dill and Jim Morelli, formerly vice president of sales and an ex-AlliedSignal Plastics executive.
The layoffs affect every level of the company, Silvio said.
"We´ve kept a strong team to go forward toward profitability," she said.
Morelli was named Dec. 1 as CEO of Waltham, Mass.-based Conferos Inc., an online provider of design-collaboration services.
For now, Commerx has decided to preserve its PlasticsNet site after evaluating options, Silvio said. That site, though, no longer is conducting trades; it now provides an online forum for information and supplier sourcing supporting Commerx´ Web-based private trading network, Silvio said.
The changes come amid some financial turbulence. Commerx´s largest outside shareholder, financially stressed Internet Capital Group Inc. of Wayne, Pa., said in November it would scale back investments in online companies after it announced layoffs of its own.
Commerx has raised about $66 million in private funding this year from other investors, Dill said before leaving the company in November.
The changes, including management shifts and a paring down of personnel, will help Commerx gain longevity, Silvio said.
"We´ve become leaner and meaner," she added.