CNET CEO Bonnie Resigns in Options Probe

NEW YORK CNET Networks CEO Shelby Bonnie resigned his position at the company after an internal investigation into the backdating of stock options faulted him.

“I apologize for the option-related problems that happened under my leadership,” Bonnie said in a statement. “I believe that the company has come a long way since 2003 in addressing these deficiencies, but am deeply disappointed it happened nonetheless.”

CNET, like other Silicon Valley companies, has been probing the backdating of options. The resignation came after a report from a special committee set up by the San Francisco Web company to look into the practice, which can be done to inflate the value of executive compensation. The committee found Bonnie and three other executives “bear varying degrees of responsibility” for accounting errors that will cause the company to restate its financial results. CNET said its general counsel and head of human resources have also resigned.

Bonnie has been an online ad industry leader for years. He was the chairman of the Interactive Advertising Bureau from 2001 to 2004, and CNET was credited with several advertising innovations during his tenure, including the introduction of larger ad units. Bonnie founded CNET in 1993, becoming chairman and CEO in 2000.

CNET said Neil Ashe, a company executive vice president, would replace Bonnie as CEO. Jarl Mohn, former president and CEO of Liberty Digital, was named chairman.

Ashe led CNET’s efforts to diversify its content to appeal to advertisers outside of technology. Since he joined in 2002, CNET acquired MP3.com, photo-sharing site Webshots and foodie site Chowhound.