The founder and managing executive of Hamptons.com left the company abruptly this week, citing differences with the company’s majority shareholder about the news and lifestyle website’s direction.
Robert Florio’s departure follows the firing of the website’s executive editor, Christine Bellini, who was replaced late last week by the site’s original executive editor, Nicole B. Brewer.
“Basically, my partner and I had very different ideas of what the future of the company should be,” Mr. Florio said on Monday, referring to Joe Kazickas, who is the majority partner and shareholder in Convergent Holdings, which owns Hamptons.com. “It was a multitude of differences about how media operates in this region. You will see a change in direction of the site in the next few weeks, I think. The audience will decide if that’s good or bad.”
Ms. Brewer said on Tuesday that the website will continue to cover local news and sports as well as social and cultural events on the East End.
“Our coverage of all areas will continue,” she said. “We are discussing changes in editorial content as we speak. We are looking forward to a site that will grow and evolve and continue to embrace everything we love about the Hamptons.”
Ms. Brewer was previously editor of the site for four and a half years, starting in 2004.
Mr. Kazickas would not comment on the changes afoot. “We’re going to look at everything,” he said. “We’re just moving ahead. We’re going to continue to build the platform we have out there as the world’s doorway to the Hamptons.”
Mr. Florio founded Hamptons Online in 1994, the first internet service company on the East End, and launched Hamptons.com as an internet directory in 1995. In 2000, he brought in Mr. Kazickas as the majority shareholder of the new holding company, Convergent Holdings, to raise capital to start a telephone and e-mail service provider, Hamptons Telephone. The telephone service ceased operating earlier this year.
In 2006, the Hamptons.com website morphed into an online lifestyle publication, featuring event listings, coverage of local arts and social life commentary. In 2007, with Mr. Florio as the driving force, the site expanded its small staff to include reporters and added news and sports coverage. Earlier this year, Mr. Florio also helped launch a print magazine, Hamptonian Magazine, and also had an agreement to manage the content of another website, NorthFork.com, which has reverted to its former design since Mr. Florio’s departure.
For years, Hamptons.com was the most visited of several websites dedicated to news and events on the East End. But in August, the leading website traffic tracking service, Quantcast.com, showed that 27east.com, the website operated by the Press News Group, which publishes four editions of The Press, leaped ahead of Hamptons.com in user traffic, and that Hamptons.com had seen a substantial drop in visitation in recent months. The service reports that from August 16 to September 14, users visited 27east.com an average of 7,600 times a day, and visited Hamptons.com 3,100 times.
Neither Mr. Kazickas, Mr. Florio nor Ms. Brewer would comment on whether the traffic reports had contributed to the executive changes at the website last week.
Mr. Florio says he remains a major shareholder in Convergent Holdings. What that means as far as his involvement with its primary assets, he said, remains unclear, even to him. Mr. Kazickas would not comment on his business relationship with Mr. Florio going forward.
For his part, the entrepreneur says he plans to remain in the digital media business on the East End.
“I’m not going away,” Mr. Florio said. “You haven’t heard the last of me.”