Rubicon Project has slashed its senior ranks, and the casualties include longtime president Greg Raifman. Is a sale to private equity next?
Raifman and six other executives have been shown the door, according to two 8-Ks filed late Tuesday. Most of the departing executives had joined to build Rubicon’s buy-side business, which it’s now steering away from. However Rubicon told AdExchanger it will continue to support for its bidding technology.
CEO and last man standing (well, almost) Frank Addante, said in an “open letter” that the firings had been made to “reallocate resources” to invest in its “Global Exchange Marketplace.”
The departures come amid swirling rumors that the company will be acquired, possibly very soon. In one scenario, a private equity firm would acquire not only Rubicon Project but also rival SSP OpenX. The thinning of senior management could be a precursor to such a move.
One source pegged the likely timeframe for a deal in weeks, not months.
Rubicon declined to comment on a potential deal. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that the company is working with Morgan Stanley to explore a sale.
The departures follow layoffs and a wave of executive departures that began last year and were meant to help the company retrench around its core publisher business. The bad news: Its relationship with those publishers has taken a beating.
“The company is unrecognizable from two years ago,” said one publisher executive who’s been a longtime Rubicon partner. “They were the sweethearts. They were everything.”
That source cycled through four or five Rubicon account managers in the past year, as the company pulled managers excelling on their accounts to salvage other larger accounts that were in jeopardy. Departures in Rubicon’s senior director and VP ranks particularly troubled this person, as those employees helped secure private marketplace deals and drum up demand.
Although Rubicon said it’s not completely exiting its buy-side business, one source insists it has already lost the war. Over the past year, The Trade Desk and other DSPs have pulled ahead by quickly releasing features. When agencies culled the number of self-service DSPs they worked with, Rubicon in many cases didn’t make the cut.
“They had follies on the buy side, like the acquisition of Chango, which they are cleaning up,” the source continued. “From a broader industry perspective, can you have sell-side tech and buy-side tech in one company? Google is doing it. Facebook can do it. But everyone else is having a hard time.”
Zach Rodgers contributed.