Just six months into her stint as evp of America Online's advertising sales unit, Lisa Brown has walked the plank -- not simply because of the ongoing plunge in revenues, insiders imply.

There is also the matter of some $40,000 of "questionable expenses", according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, although an unnamed colleague described the investigation as a routine audit and unconnected with Brown's departure.

Disemboguing oil on troubled waters, an AOL spokesman gushed: "During Lisa Brown's tenure the interactive marketing group made significant progress. Our advertising sales team is stronger, more responsive to advertisers and agencies, and selling more advertising than a year ago."

However, AOL's own published estimates for 2003 show there to have been a 35% to 45% drop in advertising income. Brown herself would say only that she had quit for health and personal reasons.

Meantime, AOL is in talks with Time Warner ad sales executive Michael J Kelly about overseeing the advertising sales group in addition to his other duties. Kelly failed to return a call seeking comment.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff