Excite@Home chairman steps down

Thomas Jermoluk will remain a director of the company, but plans to spend most of his time working with a variety of startups he has funded.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- In yet another change at Excite@Home Corp., Thomas Jermoluk has stepped down from his post as chairman, according to people close to the situation.

Jermoluk, 43 years old, was one of the major forces behind the provider of Internet access and other high-speed services over cable-television lines since its founding. He turned the chairman's post over to Chief Executive George Bell at a board meeting last week, the people said.

Although Jermoluk remains a director of the company, he is expected to spend most of his time working with a variety of startups he has funded. In addition, people close to the situation said, he was in negotiations to become a partner at Silicon Valley's most noted venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers. Kleiner has been a major backer of Excite@Home (athm), and Jermoluk has close ties to the firm, especially with its star partner, John Doerr. The venture capital firm declined to comment.

Jermoluk and Excite@Home officials also declined to comment on the change, but his departure from the company isn't unexpected. He has scaled back at Excite@Home since he turned over his title of CEO to Bell at the beginning of the year and hasn't played a day-to-day role in its operations since then. According to people close to the situation, Jermoluk was waiting until recent talks over a range of issues with majority owner AT&T Corp. were completed in late March.

Jermoluk joined @Home Corp. in 1996, after the former engineer had been a top executive at Silicon Graphics Inc. He built the company through a series of exclusive deals with most of the major U.S. cable systems, which also were stakeholders, to provide a uniform network to deliver high-speed Internet services to consumers. The company went public in 1997, becoming one of the hottest Web firms in Silicon Valley and making its founders and Jermoluk extraordinarily wealthy.

But fortunes soon shifted, especially after one of the company's major backers, Tele-Communications Inc., was bought by AT&T and @Home merged with Excite Inc., a Web portal. The company's shifting strategic direction, internal bickering among its owners and external pressure from competitors have caused Wall Street investors to bid down its share to all-time lows. That has caused a number of high-ranking executives to depart recently.

Jermoluk's investments in startups include SmartPipes Inc., a provider of high-speed Internet network infrastructure aimed at businesses; Kibu Inc., a Web community for teenage girls; MyCFO Inc., an Internet-based financial-services firm; and online digital photography printing service Shutterfly Inc.