CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE PROFILE: JIM ROSE - The flotation may be over, but there’s still plenty to do at QXL. Jim Rose’s first six months at QXL have certainly been hectic, Ashley Davies says

To say that Jim Rose has been busy over the past six months would be like saying Bill Gates’ bank balance is in credit.

To say that Jim Rose has been busy over the past six months would

be like saying Bill Gates’ bank balance is in credit.

Rose was brought on board in May to head the two-year-old - the

name was chosen to sound like ’Quicksell’ - which was already operating

in the UK, France and Germany, and was about to float on the stock


The former Financial Times journalist, Tim Jackson, had set it up in

1997 with just over pounds 100,000. The operation started with two arms

- a business-to-consumer and a consumer-to-consumer online auction

house, not unlike the US outfit, eBay.

Despite being a financial whizz, Jackson knew he was not a manager and

that he couldn’t float without a chief executive officer. Enter


Rose overhauled the operation’s infrastructure, using skills he’d

gleaned as a Deloitte and Touche management consultant. He brought in

new financial accounting systems; the front end of the site changed as

the two separate sites merged into one. A new internet service provider

was brought in; hosting was moved from the US to Docklands-based


Rose had picked up his internet know-how while setting up the

web-selling operation for the bookseller, Blackwells. He moved

from its loft in Notting Hill to Hammersmith, where the staff - now

numbering 300 - could work in a proper business environment.

Guiding the company towards the initial public offering (IPO) was a real

test of Rose’s mettle. Freeserve had just gone to market and, just as

quickly, seen its shares go into freefall. The City became edgy and the

business pages warned against buying net stocks. Two months before the

sale, a story appeared in the press saying that QXL would be valued at

between pounds 750 million and pounds 1 billion - a world away from its

actual float value of pounds 250 million.

Rose says he has no idea where the initial story had come from; pounds

250 million was absolutely the value they had all expected. He says he

couldn’t ask the paper to do a correction because he would have had to

say what the real worth was, and he wasn’t in a position to do so. When

QXL came to market at a third of the price, everyone said it had slashed

its value.

But in the run-up to flotation, in a jittery climate, was he


’I was getting calls asking whether I would pull the IPO. The thought

never crossed our minds. A lot of our investors are institutional. They

don’t just sell when they read something bad. They knew our business


We weren’t pleased that Freeserve was tanking, but all that stuff didn’t

bother me.’

Much of the money raised at the IPO will go towards marketing to

mainstream punters. Up to pounds 7 million will be spent in the UK over

the next year to build brand awareness through TV, radio, posters and

sales promotions. Pushing’s travel offering will play a large


As for growth, the organisation’s sights are fixed firmly on Europe.

Rose says: ’Statistics say that in 2002/3 Europe will converge with the

US in terms of web use so Europe’s a much bigger market.’

The next launch market will be Spain, and after Europe is conquered will look to the Middle East, Canada and even the US, where eBay


Rose doesn’t feel threatened by eBay: ’It should have been here nine

months ago. When it launched it had US pricing and that didn’t go down

well with the locals. Consumers like our mix and range.’

For now Rose, 38, is fiddling around with all sorts of ventures. In a

deal sorted out in only four weeks, QXL conducted an auction of boxing

memorabilia for Sky Sports. There is a lot more potential for digital

TV, and the company was chosen to auction off bits of Wembley Stadium in

a sale that could raise as much as pounds 20 million.

What does the future hold for Rose, who has 3.3 million share options

which invest at 25 per cent a year over four years, and who runs an

operation growing at 100 per cent a quarter?

’I love it,’ he enthuses. ’Where else can you drive the market and

accelerate your opportunities? It’s not the muddy dollar calling me. I

will be happy as long as I can continue to do exciting, creative things.

I’ve been fortunate.’


1979: Northern Illinois University, BA in business management

1983: Northwestern University, MBA from Kellogg School of Management

1986: Deloitte and Touche, management consultant

1993: Dunn and Bradstreet/ACNielsen, UK & Ireland, managing director

1996: Blackwell Information, Services, chief executive officer

1998: United Information Group, chief executive officer.


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