Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle has announced he is stepping down as CEO and will re-enter politics in an effort to help fix Indiana's "badly damaged" reputation following the firestorm over the state's "religious freedom" law.
Oesterle, a Republican and former supporter of Gov. Mike Pence, was one of the first major Indiana-based business leaders to join the corporate backlash against the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He was also one of the first (and remains one of the few) business leaders to reject the so-called "fix" to the state's law, calling it "insufficient" to prevent discrimination against LGBT individuals.
The Indianapolis Star reports:
Indiana's public image "took a shellacking" after passage of RFRA spurred widespread criticism from gay rights groups, much of the business community and others, Oesterle said. "Indiana was under significant duress and went through a heartbreaking situation."
Oesterle's announcement amounts to "an announcement of trying to unseat a governor," said Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics. "If you think about the individual positions that could have made a difference about this (RFRA), that's only one, that's the governor."
"That is somebody who is saying either he is running for governor or is looking for somebody to run for governor," Downs said of Oesterle.
Oesterle, a West Lafayette native and former trustee at Purdue University, said he hasn't decided whether he wants to run as a candidate or support someone else. In 2004, Oesterle took a leave from Angie's to manage [two-term Gov. Mitch] Daniels' first campaign, which raised a record $18 million for an Indiana gubernatorial race and unseated a sitting governor, Democrat Joe Kernan.
Gov. Pence is up for reelection in 2016.
Read the Angie's List press release announcing Oesterle's departure, AFTER THE JUMP…
Angie's List (Nasdaq:ANGI) today announced that William S. Oesterle plans to step down as Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors. Mr. Oesterle has agreed to remain in his current role as CEO until a successor is appointed, and he will serve on the Board of Directors at least through the remainder of his current term. Mr. Oesterle, co-founder of the Company, has served as Chief Executive Officer since January 1999 and on the Board since the inception of Angie's List in June 1995. After 20 years with the Company overseeing significant growth and market expansion, Mr. Oesterle has shared his intention to pursue other interests, including becoming more civically involved in the State of Indiana.
The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee of the Company's Board of Directors has initiated a search to identify a new CEO. Internal and external candidates will be considered. The Company has retained Spencer Stuart, a leading executive search firm, to assist in the process.
"On behalf of the entire Angie's List Board, I want to thank Bill for his leadership in helping to create one of the strongest brands in local home services," said John Chuang, Chair of the Angie's List Board of Directors. "This transition period provides an opportunity to acknowledge and applaud Bill's contributions to the Company, while also ensuring a smooth transition to our next Chief Executive Officer. We are focused on identifying a strong leader who has a record of driving positive financial results and who shares our vision of leveraging the unique attributes of the Angie's List brand. The right candidate will build on Bill's success, and will help us continue executing our strategy of establishing Angie's List as the preferred platform in the $800 billion local services marketplace."
"Serving Angie's List alongside its 1,900 dedicated employees and being part of this amazing company from the very beginning has been a privilege and a highlight of my professional career," said Mr. Oesterle. "I am extremely proud of all that we have accomplished, especially seeing Angie's Listgrow to where we are now connecting millions of consumers across the country with leading service providers in their areas. The decision to leave was not an easy one. But as I begin the transition to the next chapter, I have great confidence in the Company's continued growth and prosperity and am committed to supporting a seamless transition."
"For the past 20 years, Bill has been an outstanding partner to me and to the whole Angie's List organization," said Angie's List co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Angie Hicks. "I look forward to continuing to work closely with our talented team to execute on our marketplace strategy with the same passion and entrepreneurial spirit that Bill has instilled in our company and that has enabled our success."