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ZipRealty hires new CFO

Eric Mersch comes on board in midst of downsizing

Technology-based brokerage ZipRealty Inc. has appointed Eric L. Mersch as the company’s chief financial officer and chief accounting officer.

Mersch, 44, succeeds David A. Rector, who joined ZipRealty in 2002 and will stay with the company during a transition period until his retirement later this year.

Mersch has served as CFO at a number of companies, including Imaging Advantage LLC, Sonim Technologies Inc., DemandFlexLLC, Razorgator Inc. and VitalStream Inc.

After graduating from the the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor of science degree, Mersch served for seven years as a division officer aboard the U.S.S. Los Angeles, a nuclear submarine. He also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, and a master’s in nuclear power engineering.

Mersch will receive an annual base salary of $275,000, ZipRealty said in a regultory filing. The compensation committee of ZipRealty’s board of directors has recommended that Mersch be granted an option to purchase up to 250,000 shares of the company‚Äôs common stock with an exercise price equal to the closing price of the stock on the date the option is granted.

Emeryville, Calif.-based ZipRealty saw revenue fall 28 percent last year, to $85.1 million, as the company embarked on a new strategy of using its popular website to generate leads for other brokerages.

ZipRealty kicked off 2011 by shuttering offices in a dozen markets, and by the end of the year had reduced its agent count to 1,701, half the number it began with. Those and other cost-cutting measures helped the brokerage trim its annual loss to $9.7 million, down 38 percent from 2010.

Last month, the company announced plans to cut another $7 million in annual expenses through additional downsizing including a 16 percent reduction in its field sales support workforce and layoffs affecting 20 percent of the company’s corporate sales support and administrative workforce.

To boost revenue, ZipRealty has eliminated buyer rebates, and generates leads for other brokerages in half a dozen markets where it no longer has its own agents.

Last month ZipRealty said it was moving to a referral model in the Salt Lake City market, bringing the total number of "Powered by Zip" referral partners to seven. The closure of the company’s Salt Lake City office leaves ZipRealty with brokerage operations in 20 markets, down from a peak of 35 in 2010.

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