A very surprising and sudden changing of the guard at Ozon, an e-commerce marketplace known as the “Amazon of Russia.” Maelle Gavet has stepped down as CEO, effective today, and is getting replaced by Danny Perekalsky, who had been the deputy CEO.
Gavet, who has been CEO of Ozon for four years, is leaving for a job somewhere else but has not yet said where that landing will be. In the meantime, she will stay on in an advisory role for the next several months as Perekalsky transfers to his new role.
“I am honored to become OZON’s next CEO. It is a privilege to be part of an organization that delivers high quality products and services to over 16,000,000 customers, develops talented professionals into leaders and continually strives to make a difference in the communities where we live and work,” said Perekalsky in a statement. “Maelle has made a significant contribution to OZON in terms of leadership and growth. I look forward to continuing to cultivate the business, taking Russian eCommerce to an unprecedented level.”
Gavet has been a notable leader of Ozon for more than one reason. At her time at the head of Ozon, Gavet has taken the company through several major funding rounds and growth, the last being a $150 million round in 2014 at a $700 million valuation. Gross merchandise value is currently at 32 billion roubles for the year, with net sales of 11.08 billion roubles in 2014.
And not only was Gavet a rare female among a sea of men at the top of tech companies — a situation that is even more the case in Russia than in countries like the U.S. — she is not Russian, but French, although she spoke Russian fluently. As is the case with the presence of females, non-Russian execs in Russia are few and far between.
Although Gavet is leaving for another, unspecified role elsewhere, and this appears to be the main reason for her stepping down, her departure nevertheless comes at an interesting time in Russia. The current government led by Vladimir Putin has been tightening its control over media and other information and online services, with demands to access data that runs across networks in the country, and regular blocks of content and specific sites when they are deemed to violate regulations. Regulators have been carrying out these moves in the name of security and national interests, but the come very much to the consternation of other countries, advocates of democracy and free speech, and the businesses and people who operate in Russia. That predicament has in turn left companies who do business in the country in a precarious position.
Ozon has largely confined its growth to Russia and adjacent markets, and it will be interesting to see how that will be impacted by the wider political and economic climate in the country. Sanctions in Crimea have led to blocks of certain services online, and the collapse of the rouble will also potentially provide a hindrance to the company’s business over time.
Investors appear to be happy with the move.
“Over the past few years, under Maelle’s leadership, OZON has built a strong executive team and consolidated its position as the number-one Russian eCommerce player,” said Giuseppe Zocco, co-founder, partner at Index Ventures and OZON board member, in a statement. “As agreed from the start, Maelle is now moving on to pursue her next challenge in another international context. Having witnessed Danny’s capabilities and talent over the past 12 months, I am confident that he will successfully lead Ozon through its next growth cycle and welcome him as the new CEO.”