Seek (ASX:SEK) shares sink as founder steps down

Ex-CBA chief becomes the new boss at the job-search website, as it gives its venture capital arm more independence and remit to lose money.

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SEEK Limited (ASX: SEK) co-founder Andrew Bassat has stepped down as chief executive, with former Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) boss Ian Narev to take over.

Bassat had led the job search website since he co-founded it in 1997 with his brother Paul.

Both are now revered figures in the Australian startup scene.

“We have built a company that I am very proud of,” said Andrew Bassat.

“But now is the right time for a new leader for the next stage. And Ian Narev is the right leader.”

Like Inc (NASDAQ: AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos’ move last month, Bassat will become the executive chair of Seek. He will also fill the new position of chief executive for Seek Investments.

The company is seeking to provide more independence for its venture capital arm, which puts money into young businesses “to support their aspirations and deliver strong long-term returns”. 

Seek emphasised that this part of the business needed to be able to “support further sustained periods of larger losses”.

“An independently managed Investments, accessing external capital, can undertake aggressive long-term investment to build large businesses,” said Seek’s current chair Graham Goldsmith.

Earlier this month, the Seek share price hit a record high as investors expected the jobs market to recover strongly from the COVID-19 downturn.

Seek shares are 2.37% down in early trade Tuesday morning.

Ian Narev goes from big bank to internet chief

Narev, who was chief of CBA from 2011 to 2017, was already Seek’s boss for the Asia-Pacific and Americas (AP&A) division.

“I am not going to try and fill Andrew’s shoes… He is a unique leader and a person,” he said.

The New Zealander had stepped down from the CBA in controversial circumstances. 

In 2016, the bank had been exposed by the media for alleged misconduct by its insurance arm in refusing to pay out claims for dying and terminally ill customers.

Then the next year, CBA was busted for repeatedly breaching anti-money laundering regulations. Current chief Matt Comyn took over in August 2017.

“Ian is the natural successor for Andrew,” said Goldsmith.

“He brings a strong track record in digital transformation, strategy, and public company leadership.”

Seek also revealed today that its first-half financial year 2021 result and outlook for the rest of the year was “materially better” than the forecasts at the November annual general meeting.

The company is also repaying $9.8 million in COVID-19 subsidies it received from the Australian and New Zealand Governments.

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