Chairs are shuffling at the helm of Zillow, reportedly as a prelude to an IPO.
Rich Barton, CEO and co-founder of the company that disrupted the online real estate market with its deep dives into neighborhoods and convenient free access to home price estimates, is retreating to the corner as executive chairman. COO and Hotwire co-founder Spencer Rascoff is taking over, and a New York Times blog quotes Barton as saying that Rascoff is stepping up because he shines under the CNBC spotlight and at investor conferences.
It's an odd IPO theory, since Barton was at the helm of Expedia
Maybe it's just me, but I was hoping that Zillow would have gone public sooner. I was wowed out of the gate when the site launched four years ago, and a year later placed it on my wish list of the four companies that I would love to see go public.
I just don't know if the buzz is still there right now, especially given the sorry state of the residential real estate market. There's no longer the realistic desire to check on the percolating values of neighbor digs. Shares of Market Leader
This doesn't mean that Zillow hasn't evolved. It is apparently currently profitable. It continues to grow its reach, recently taking over Yahoo!'s
This will all read well in an IPO prospectus, but it will be hard for Zillow to grab the brass ring of hype that it had when it first launched its site -- sending nearly every other site into panic mode.
It has expanded logically, into serving up mortgage referrals. It hopped on the Web 2.0 bandwagon early by turning home listings into community pages and offering real estate agencies the opportunity to advertise.
I just don't know how a Zillow IPO would fly these days. As long as there's a glut of real estate and housing prices are depressed, visiting Zillow is simply having coffee with the messenger of bad news.
It's true that if Zillow had gone public shortly after its launch that it would have eventually run into these brutal headwinds. Public shareholders would probably have been crushed. However, right now -- until there is true investor appetite for an online real estate play -- it just doesn't make sense.
Which company would you like to see go public? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz isn't interested in selling his home, even if he recognizes that the once-red-hot South Florida market is a ghost of its former glory. He does not own shares in any of the stocks mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.