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Originally published November 8, 2011 at 2:37 PM | Page modified November 9, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Blue Nile CEO resigns abruptly; 3Q profit falls

Diane Irvine, Blue Nile's CEO and president, has resigned, effective Friday. The Internet jeweler also said its third-quarter sales rose 11 percent from a year ago to $75 million, but its profit fell nearly a third to $1.9 million.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Another management change has hit Blue Nile.

The Seattle-based Internet jeweler said Tuesday its CEO and president, Diane Irvine, has resigned from the company effective Friday.

Blue Nile did not give a reason for Irvine's departure after 12 years at the company.

Senior Vice President Vijay Talwar, who oversees Blue Nile's international business, was named interim CEO, effective immediately.

Reached at home, Irvine would not discuss her departure, saying only, "I love Blue Nile. I love the business. I'm proud of what we built, and that never changes."

Irvine has been CEO since 2008, but the company has experienced heavy turnover at the CFO level: Between 2007 and 2011, it named a half-dozen chief financial officers, including one who turned down the job before his start date.

Blue Nile said Tuesday its third-quarter sales rose 11 percent from a year ago to $75 million, but its profit fell nearly a third to $1.9 million, or 13 cents a share. Wall Street projected a per-share profit of 17 cents on sales of $72.6 million.

Blue Nile's profits are being squeezed by rising wholesale diamond prices and a sluggish economic recovery, which has caused some couples to put off getting married. To turn things around, Blue Nile is adding more nonbridal jewelry to its product mix.

In a conference call with analysts, chairman and co-founder Mark Vadon said the company plans to "invest aggressively" in the nonbridal business.

Looking ahead, Blue Nile said its fourth-quarter sales likely will come in between $121 million and $125 million. It forecast a per-share profit of 41 to 43 cents, less than the 45 cents that analysts expected.

Blue Nile's stock plunged $8.31, or 17 percent, to $40.50 in after-hours trading Tuesday. Shares closed the regular session up $3.40, or 7.5 percent, at $48.81, before the announcement of the financial results and Irvine's departure. The stock has traded between $30.32 and $64.45 in the past 52 weeks.

Vadon, who hired Irvine as chief financial officer in 1999, called her a "tremendous business partner." He said he wishes her well "in her future endeavors."

Vadon said he will lead the search for a permanent CEO and take an active leadership role through the transition, working closely with Talwar.

Irvine, 52, formerly the CFO of Plum Creek Timber, rose to become Blue Nile's president in 2007 and CEO in 2008, when Vadon stepped down from day-to-day operations to provide strategic direction.

Talwar, 40, joined Blue Nile in August 2010 after serving as CEO of the William J. Clinton Foundation in India. He became interim CFO three months later after the resignation of Marc Stolzman, now CFO at Everett-based retailer Zumiez.

Talwar remained in the interim post until August, when David Binder became the sixth person in four years to be named Blue Nile's CFO.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff researcher

David Turim contributed

to this story.

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