For years, Forbes.com has been the envy of the financial press, with Web traffic far surpassing that of competitors such as BusinessWeek.com and WSJ.com.

But the site's fortunes have taken a turn for the worse lately, and now someone is apparently answering for it: Jim Spanfeller, president and CEO of Forbes.com and executive vice president of electronic publishing, is stepping down, according to sources. The announcement is expected as soon as Thursday, when the company has a scheduled sales meeting.

Spanfeller did not respond to messages, but his departure is thought by insiders to be a result of pressure by Elevation Partners, the private equity group that bought a large minority stake in Forbes three years ago. In May of this year, Elevation co-founder Roger McNamee resigned from the Forbes board and was replaced by Bret Pearlman, another Elevation Partners executive whose arrival was seen to herald a round of cost-cutting. Since then, rumors have circulated that Spanfeller's days were numbered, even though he is said to be favored by president/COO Tim Forbes.

"I would not be surprised if his replacement is someone from outside," says one source.

It also can't be good for Spanfeller that traffic to Forbes.com has been waning in recent months, with WSJ.com all but catching up to it in unique viewers according to the latest tally from Compete.com.

UPDATE: It's confirmed: Spanfeller is leaving at the end of the summer. The memo, first posted online by All Things D's Peter Kafka, follows after the chart.

From: Forbes, Steve
Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2009 7:35 AM
Subject: Jim Spanfeller


Jim Spanfeller, President and CEO of Forbes.com, has decided to step down from leading our website after nine years. In the entrepreneurial spirit that Forbes has always championed, Jim will be setting up his own media management company.

Describing his future plans Jim said, "The world of media has changed rapidly in the past 10 years and the velocity of the change promises only to increase going forward. I've had a great run at Forbes and have been deeply involved in the breakthroughs and transformations between traditional and digital media. Now I see a huge opportunity to have my own media management business that will help other traditional media companies make the most of their enormous prospects in digital venues, taking all I have learned here in the past decade and applying it on a wider horizon. Forbes.com has truly been a truly wonderful ride, and I am deeply in debt to the Forbes family for letting me be a part of it."

Jim has done a monumental job of bringing Forbes.com to the lead position in business websites, and secured Forbes.com as the must-visit site for not only global business leaders but also anyone interested in the finest business reporting and analysis available. At present Forbes.com has 18 million unique visitors a month.

Along the way, Jim has overseen the development and growth of Forbes Digital, which includes Forbes.com, ForbesTraveler.com, Investopedia.com, RealClearPolitics.com, RealClearMarkets.com, Real Clear Sports, and Forbes Business and Finance Blog Network, which together reach 40 million unique visitors a month.

This immense growth on the digital side of the business was spearheaded, pursued, and led by Jim with enormous success. The digital world is still uncharted with few rules, and Jim's intellect, creativity, and business acumen helped bring us our number-one position. For this the Forbes family is very grateful, and we wish him all the success in his future plans.

Since Elevation Partners partnered with Forbes three years ago, Jim has worked very closely with them on the growth and development and vision for Forbes.com. Commenting on Jim's departure, Roger McNamee of Elevation said, "Jim did a fantastic job leading Forbes.com. In an era when competitors feared it, Jim embraced and evangelized the Internet, with huge benefits to Forbes and its audiences. We are grateful for his contributions over the past nine years."

Jim will be staying through a transition period at least through Labor Day. Please join me and my brothers in wishing Jim all the best in the future, which he deserves.


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