After months of steady stock market hammering and business setbacks, the once-celebrated founder of priceline, Jay S. Walker, announced Thursday that he is stepping down as the boardå‘s vice chairman.
The announcement came after markets closed.
Walker recently assumed the role of CEO at Walker Digital, LLC, a Stamford-based intellectual property developer that invented priceline.com`s business model. Walker said he was leaving the priceline.com board of directors, effective December 31, so that he could “focus on business challenges facing Walker Digital, including the licensing of its intellectual property portfolio and commercialization of several related services.”
In May 1999, Walker was featured in Fortune magazine as an e-commerce pioneer, an instant billionaire, who is the “the Edison for a new age.” Then, Time magazine name Walker as one of the 50 most influential business leaders in the Digital Age for his patented priceline.com e-commerce syswtem.
“I am proud of what has been achieved so far at priceline.com,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “I have every confidence that priceline.com will emerge from the current environment as one of the Internet`s pre-eminent brands.”
Priceline’s stock has lost about 98% of its value in the past year. The sharp drop followed declining sales of airline tickets, consumer complaints, and the sudden departure of key executives. Earlier this month, priceline laid off 11% of its employees.
Other actions in a restructuring of priceline include scrapping of plans for services in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The company has said it will return to its original focus of inviting online customers to set their own prices in bidding for airline tickets and hotel rooms.
“As priceline.com`s founder, Jay made significant contributions to our business,” said priceline Chairman Richard S. Braddock. “He gave us the intellectual foundation on which we have built and expect to continue to grow priceline.com. We thank Jay for those contributions and we understand his decision to concentrate his time at Walker Digital.”
Priceline.com had been the darling of the business media and Wall Street with its “Name Your Own Price” Internet pricing system. With a series of television commercials featuring William Shatner, priceline achieved brand recognition early in the e-commerce boom that would be very expensive to duplicate today.