German media titan Bertelsmann revealed Wednesday that Andreas Schmidt – head of its e-commerce division – has resigned.

The surprise move coincides with a shake-up of the business designed to integrate on and offline activities. Schmidt’s E-Commerce Group, which houses music distribution arm BeMusic and web bookseller, is to be folded into Direct Group, Bertelsmann’s direct-to-consumer division.

Schmidt, one-time chief executive of AOL Europe, has overseen e-commerce at the media firm since 1998, furthering the aggressive online ambitions of chief executive Thomas Middelhoff, such as loans to file-sharing service Napster. However, his influence has declined of late, as Bertelsmann has sought to merge internet operations with traditional businesses, including the folding of internet bookstore BOL into its book clubs [WAMN: 15-May-01].

Schmidt and Klaus Eierhoff, head of Direct Group, are not thought to have had the greatest of relationships. “Officially they were best friends, unofficially they did not get along all that well,” revealed one informant. Nevertheless, Schmidt insisted his departure was his own doing, adding that he would look for fresh opportunities outside Bertelsmann. will now be controlled from Bertelsmann’s Cologne headquarters, while taking charge of BeMusic will be Stuart Goldfarb, previously responsible for operations at the unit.

News source: Financial Times