Retargeting company Criteo has removed its CEO Eric Eichmann, who will also leave the board of the business immediately according to a statement from the company. He will be replaced by returning founder (and current Chairman) JB Rudelle.
The statement says Eichmann will continue to act as an advisor to the business, although Which-50 has learned the nature of that relationship has not yet been settled.
Edouard Lassalle, VP Head of Investor Relations at Criteo confirmed to Which-50 that the final decision to replace the CEO was made very recently.
In the email response to questions, Lassalle wrote “The board decision happened on April 24, a day before the public announcement. The board did consider a search process but believes the best solution for shareholders is to have JB back in the Paris headquarters as CEO. As the founder, JB is uniquely qualified to continue to evolve the business, while driving a return to a focus on our DNA of R&D and product innovation.”
In an announcement to the market released today Jim Warner, lead independent director said “The board of directors has asked Criteo’s founder JB to play a more active role to help the company in its next phase of growth, and given this, Eric Eichmann has chosen to transition out of Criteo. Eric has offered to help transition the CEO role and act as an advisor to the CEO.”
According to Rudelle, “I sincerely thank Eric for his high integrity, great leadership and commitment in growing our business over the last five years. After being away from the day to day operations of the business for two years, I am honored and excited to return to the company that I love.”
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Criteo is the darling of the French digital sector and one of the star adtech performers in the world. However, it has been subject to multiple claims and criticisms of its methods from a variety of sources, including direct legal action by US company Steelhouse* as well as ad fraud consultants and hedge funds skeptical that too much of its revenue comes from fraudulent behaviour by third parties exploiting weaknesses in its mitigation approaches.
Gotham City Research has been particularly scathing, issuing a series of hostile research reports and as recently as March 21, tweeting “If Criteo was to experience 1% of the scrutiny that Facebook currently is, for their privacy violations, most of the company’s revenues would simply go away, At least Facebook gives back something to users and has their affirmative consent.”
Criteo directly addressed the various criticisms of the last eighteen months in an email response to questions from Which-50.
According to Lassalle, “While we have a strict policy of not commenting on rumours and speculation, it does not mean we agree in any way with the various allegations relayed by the different parties you mention above. In the areas of traffic quality, supply quality and brand safety, we have taken and continue to take various actions both internally and externally. It’s part of what we do every day.”
He said a part of the Criteo organisation is focused on these topics, across R&D, Product, Global Supply and Operations.
Lassalle identified three areas of focus:
- Traffic quality Data driven investigations and machine-learning developments to detect and prevent fraudulent, invalid and non-human traffic;
- Supply quality Internal process and policies to ensure that the inventory supply it sources adheres to content, privacy, and traffic quality guidelines (“we may work with third-party partners like Integral AdScience for this”);
- Brand quality Internal process and policies related to ensuring that the ads that we display are aligned with the specific brand guidelines and identity requirements of our clients.
“The lists of actions and teams is long. You can read our 10-K for a bit more information on our description of our brand safety activities.”
The company’s share price has halved in the past 13 months after peaking at $54.39 — on April Fools Day last year.
A study last year (also by Gotham City Research) found that, relative to its peers in the industry, sites with Criteo tags are much more likely to be found in non-brand-safe environments.
Criteo has also suffered from the impact of Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention and, despite public comments to the contrary from the outgoing CEO, the perception that it will be hurt by GDPR — given its reliance on cookies and retargeting revenues. Its next financial results are due out on May 2.
*Steelhouse and Criteo each accused the other of engaging in fraudulent behaviour but settled their case just prior to their respective lawyers commencing discovery.