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SAN FRANCISCO-Amid a lawsuit and a good news-bad news year-end earnings report, the online commercial real estate marketplace LoopNet Inc. promoted Thomas Byrne, its senior vice president of sales to president and chief operating officer, roles previously attended to by LoopNet chief executive Richard Boyle. The newly created position gives Byrne full P&L responsibility and puts him in charge of day-to-day business operations, marketing, sales, account management, engineering and product development.

In explaining the promotion, Boyle says Byrne has built and managed the company’s marketing, sales, client service and account management teams over the past five years and has “consistently over-delivered on the company’s revenue, expense and operating targets.” Adds LoopNet board member Scott Ingraham, “LoopNet has grown revenues more than 10 [fold] during his tenure and has achieved five consecutive years of operating profit growth.”

The new position is designed to allow LoopNet to better align the organization to take advantage of current and future growth opportunities. There also are challenges ahead. Boyle was not immediately available Thursday for comment.

While the company’s profit increased 36% to $21.1 million on a 46% jump in revenue to $70.7 million, its premium subscriber base – the ones who pay for enhanced listings and other extras – dipped in the fourth quarter, as did page views per member, and the company also experienced an increase in its cancellation rate. That said, the company has one of the highest profit margins in the space, which makes it an attractive acquisition target. On Wednesday, shares of LoopNet fell $0.46 to $12.04 on heavy trading before rebounding to $12.51 Thursday on normal trading volume.

Additionally, the company is in a legal battle with one of its publicly traded competitors, CoStar, which filed a lawsuit this week questioning LoopNet’s claim that it has 2.5 million registered members, which would be a 45% increase from 2006. The filing comes on the heels of LoopNet’s lawsuit against CoStar, claiming a breach of contract related to unauthorized reproduction of LoopNet property listings, which was filed in November 2007. In 2000, CoStar filed a lawsuit similar to LoopNet’s that resulted in a federal judge ordering LoopNet to stop using and remove from its Web site CoStar-copyrighted images of office buildings.

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