Autobytel Inc.'s president and CEO, Mark Lorimer, resigned in what company officials called a “surprise move.” Autobytel's board of directors quickly named Jeffrey Schwartz as Lorimer's replacement.

Schwartz joined the company as vice chairman in August in connection with the acquisition of Autoweb.com, Inc., where he was president and chief executive officer. Prior to joining Autoweb, Schwartz was corporate vice president at The Walt Disney Company, where he was responsible for corporate alliance business development.

“Jeffrey brings enormous experience in online automotive commerce and marketing, as well as in the development of strategic alliances,” says Michael Fuchs, Autobytel Inc.'s chairman. “We are grateful for the service that Mark Lorimer has provided to Autobytel in developing the company from its initial public offering to its strong financial position today. We know Mark will be successful in his next business.”

Lorimer's abrupt resignation fueled speculation that the board forced him out because of Autobytel's poor stock performance. However, sources say that Lorimer resigned because he was tired of taking the heat for something that he believed to be out of his control.