Kara Swisher

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Zillow’s COO Rascoff Becomes CEO; Co-Founder Barton to Exec Chairman

In an interesting corporate move, the COO of online real-estate site Zillow, Spencer Rascoff (pictured here), has been promoted to CEO, replacing founding CEO Rich Barton.

Barton–who is also venture partner at Benchmark Capital and on the board of Netflix (NFLX)–will remain executive chairman of Zillow.

He co-founded it in 2005 after founding the Expedia travel site in 1994, while an exec at Microsoft (MSFT) and spinning it out in 1999.

After Expedia, Barton moved on to Zillow, also based in Seattle, which has raised $87 million in funding.

“Zillow is in a fantastic spot on many metrics, so it was ready for a new leader for the next phase,” said Barton, who said he would still remain very involved in the company.

One of the reasons Barton said he felt he could move on: Zillow is now profitable on a cash-flow basis via local and national advertising and referral fees. And it had 12.5 million unique users in August, up 41 percent year over year, despite an economic downturn.

Zillow has been focusing a lot on mobile apps, which now represents 15 to 20 percent of Zillow traffic on weekends.

Rascoff said he will focus on further growing reach and revenue on the Web and via mobile. “It’s a priority to grow the size of our audience,” he said.

The overall goal? Unlike a lot of start-up heads who are wary of IPOs, Rascoff said a public offering was the likely path for Zillow.

“I would like us to be public and we intend to be,” he said.

Here is the official Zillow press release:

Zillow Appoints Spencer Rascoff CEO

Co-founder Rich Barton Remains Executive Chairman

SEATTLE–September 14, 2010–Zillow, Inc., which operates leading real estate website Zillow.com®, Zillow® Mortgage Marketplace, and the industry’s largest mobile real estate platform, today announced Spencer Rascoff has been named chief executive officer. Co-founder Rich Barton, who has been the company’s CEO since it was founded in 2005, will continue to be actively involved in Zillow as executive chairman of the board of directors. Fellow co-founder Lloyd Frink will move from president to the new full-time role of chief strategy officer.

Rascoff joined Zillow in 2005 as one of the original executive team members and has been serving as chief operating officer since October 2008. Previously he was chief financial officer and vice president of marketing. As COO, Rascoff has been responsible for the majority of Zillow’s day-to-day operations for the past two years, overseeing marketing, finance, partner relations, legal and human resources as well as the execution of the company’s recent partnership with Yahoo! He is also a frequent housing market commentator on CNBC, CNN, FOX and Bloomberg TV.

“Spencer is an immensely capable and energetic leader who has been a driving force at Zillow from the beginning, helping to grow the company from a spark of an idea into a profitable industry leader. This promotion is well-deserved and reflects the leadership responsibility he’s been carrying for a while,” said Rich Barton, co-founder and executive chairman of Zillow, Inc. “As executive chairman, I look forward to continuing to work with Spencer and the entire team to extend Zillow’s leadership position in online and mobile real estate.”

“Working with Rich, Lloyd and the entire Zillow team has been the most exciting and rewarding period of my career,” said Spencer Rascoff, chief executive officer of Zillow, Inc. “I am extremely proud of our progress to date and even more excited about the opportunities ahead.”

Prior to Zillow, Rascoff served as vice president of lodging at Expedia, which he joined after InterActiveCorp’s $675 million acquisition of discount travel site Hotwire.com in 2003. Rascoff co-founded Hotwire in 1999 and helped grow the company from an idea to a leading online travel company in just four years. Previously, he was an investment banker in the merger and acquisitions group at Goldman Sachs and held other investment-related positions at TPG Capital, Bear Stearns and Allen & Co. He graduated cum laude from Harvard University, and he serves on Harvard’s Digital Community & Social Networking Advisory Group.

As one of the most-visited real estate sites on the web, Zillow has broken multiple records in operating and financial metrics in the past year and is profitable. In August, 12.5 million unique users visited Zillow.com, up 41 percent year over year. Zillow Mortgage Marketplace logged a record 314,000 loan requests in August, up six-fold from a year ago. National and local advertising sales, including sales through the company’s location-based mobile apps, are also accelerating. Total downloads of Zillow’s mobile apps have surpassed 2 million, making Zillow the most popular real estate app on iPhone®, iPadTM, Android® and Windows® Mobile devices. As previously announced, Zillow recently teamed with Yahoo! Real Estate to create the largest real estate ad network, for which Zillow coordinates sales across the two platforms. Later this fall, Zillow will power all for-sale listings on Yahoo!, bringing more than 4 million home listings to Yahoo! users.