Market Insider

What’s Next for Reservation Website OpenTable?


While not unexpected, the resignation of OpenTable’s chairman is hardly good news for the already struggling restaurant reservation website.

The companyrevealed late Tuesdaythat Jeffrey Jordan tendered his resignation to the board on Dec. 14, effective immediately. Just seven months before, Jordan stunned investors when he abruptly resigned from the CEO post.

“His departure leaves a significant vacuum in the c-suite, which is one of the reasons the stock has underperformed dramatically,” says Bradley Safalow of PAA Research.

Once trading at $115, OpenTable shares now trade around $45. The stock is down more than 40 percent in the last six months.

Jordan, who remains a board member, in June became a partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Safalow, who has a “sell” rating on OpenTable, says investors and executives are losing confidence in the company.

“Mr. Jordan cashed out at the top, and his successor amazingly continues to sell stock. Not exactly the kind of endorsement from incoming management investors want to see,” Safalow told CNBC.

Thomas Layton, who was once OpenTable’s CEO, will replace Jordan.

Andrew Connor at Piper Jaffray, who has a "neutral" rating on the stock, is optimistic, however. “The company’s road map for the next five years is pretty well in place," he says. "They just need to execute on it."

Safalow doubts management’s ability to successfully shepherd OpenTable through an increasingly competitive and dynamic environment.

“The company's international growth has been hindered by intense competition from Livebookings, LaFourchette, Restaurantdiary, Eveve, and others, combined with poor integration of the company's largest acquisition to date, Toptable,” says Safalow.

In the U.S., Safalow expects competition from Urbanspoon, MICROS Systems , and Google to significantly impair OpenTable’s growth in 2012.

“Did Mr. Jordan see what we see? Probably. Otherwise, why else would he leave?” says Safalow.

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