WebMD Co-CEO Quits, Stock Falls

Monday, October 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — The man who put together the Internet health company WebMD has quit the ailing start-up, making him the third top company official to leave in two weeks.

Jeffrey Arnold, 34, was co-chief executive of the company, which aims to bring together various health care transactions through the Internet. Martin J. Wygod remains the company's sole CEO.

The stock, which reached a high of $75.19 in January, closed Friday down 50 cents to $8.00 on the Nasdaq composite index.

Arnold told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the move was ``best for the company long-term, but it also hurts at the same time. I keep telling myself: `You can't be sad. You have to be proud of what's been created. And you move on.'''

WebMD, which merged with Internet health care company Healtheon in 1999, has sought to build a system of Web-based services to automate such tasks as HMO enrollment, referrals, data retrieval and claims processing for use by insurers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

Wall Street analysts are now questioning the plan and the company's rapid expansion.

WebMD has spent more than $10 billion on acquisitions this year, increasing its work force to 6,000. Last month, it announced that it will cut 1,100 jobs.

On Thursday, company co-founder Jim Clark resigned from the board and a week earlier, Chief Technology Officer Pavan Nigam, who co-founded Healtheon in 1996 with Clark, also quit.

WebMD's struggles are indicative of the problems rippling through the entire Internet sector, where several companies are struggling just to survive. On Thursday, online multimedia company Scour filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, while earlier this month, Priceline.com stock plunged to an all-time low after the demise of WebHouse Club, its licensee for name-your-own-price gasoline and groceries.

Even profitable Internet companies such as Yahoo! Inc. have been hurt. Yahoo shares have fallen more than 30 percent over the past few days after the online portal warned its growth would slow because fewer Internet companies were advertising on its site.


On the Net: WebMD, http://www.webmd.com