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e-Dialog CEO Simone Barratt Resigns

5/22/12

By Ken Magill

Often when high-profile executives get fired, press releases announcing their departure will say something like “has gone on to pursue other interests” or “left to spend more time with family.”

And anyone who has been a business or trade reporter for any length of time knows these phrases are euphemisms for: “We booted his overpaid, underperforming ass out the door.”

This week, however, we have news of a high-level executive who has resigned of her own accord and has apparently actually done so to spend time with her family—her 91-year-old mother, to be precise.

Simone Barratt, chief executive of marketing services provider e-Dialog, has resigned.

“It is with great sadness that I have chosen to resign from my position at e-Dialog,” wrote Barratt in an email to colleagues. “At 91 my dear mother is getting frailer and she needs me and I need to spend more time with her.”

Barratt—who was named e-Dialog’s chief executive last October—is staying with the company through the end of August to help find her replacement.

“When you’re fired, you’re shown the door immediately,” she said. “I love e-Dialog. … I want to be a good corporate citizen.”

Barratt was named CEO in part to pick up the pieces of an open-door corporate culture that had been shattered.

Trouble apparently started after CEO John Rizzi left the company on the heels of the firings of chief marketing officer Arthur Sweetser and chief technology officer Ken Lajoie.

And then, just before e-Dialog’s parent GSI Commerce announced in March, 2011 it had agreed to be acquired by eBay for $2.4 billion, GSI reportedly fired dozens of e-Dialog’s top executives in the U.S.

An exodus of employees followed and morale was reportedly destroyed.

“The atmosphere was terrible,” said one former employee who was interviewed for an earlier Magill Report article on e-Dialog. “Anyone who could find a job did.”

Sources in a position to know, who didn’t want to be named, said in her short tenure as e-Dialog’s chief executive, Barratt made significant progress in turning the company around.

The sentiment among various sources contacted for this article was that Barratt’s departure is e-Dialog’s loss.

When asked if she might return to the industry one day, Barratt said: “It really depends on the family circumstances.”

She added there was some discussion of her taking a sabbatical rather than resigning.

“But it was fairer for the business if they count me out because then they’ll make aggressive plans to move forward,” she said. “I think that’s healthier for the company, frankly. You should never say never … but that door is shut right now.”

Barratt also expressed confidence in the three regional managers appointed on her watch—Christian Wright, general manager of e-Dialog Americas; Luke Griffiths, general manager of e-Dialog U.K., and Darren Fifield, managing director of e-Dialog Asia-Pacific—to keep things running smoothly.

“All three of them have stepped up and done a fabulous job on the operational side of things,” she said. “They’re three very strong players who know the business very well. … My job was to bring stability back to the business and I feel good about that.”

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