RALEIGH, N.C. — One of Fortune Interactive’s investors has taken over the operation of the search engine marketing company after the departure of co-founder Andy Beal.

Beal, who had served as chief executive officer, left the firm in August in a dispute over the direction of the company. He is now an independent consultant.

Paul George has taken over as acting CEO of Fortune Interactive, according to Scott Gardner, Fortune Interactive’s vice president of sales and marketing. George is one of several individual investors in the company, Gardner said.

George also is a co-founder of venture capital firm George Enterprise International, which is based in Raleigh. George Enterprise lists Fortune Interactive as one of investment portfolio companies.

Mike Marshall, who co-founded Fortune Interactive along with Beal, has “stepped up” his role at the firm to become chief operating officer, Gardner added. Marshall had been vice president of technology.

Marshall is also chief technology officer of George Enterprise, according to the firm’s website.

Beal, a former executive with Triangle-based WedSourced, and Marshall launched Fortune Interactive in 2005. WebSourced is now called MarketSmart Interactive.

Beal declined comment to WRAL Local Tech Wire, pointing to a blog that he wrote about his departure on Aug. 4.

“Ten months later and Fortune Interactive is indeed a fast growing, well respected [search engine marketing] firm with a great technology,” Beal wrote. ‘However, FI’s ‘parent’ investors have departed greatly from the plans we initially agreed on last September, to the point that I am no longer in a position to take Fortune Interactive in the direction I feel it should go. They are the majority shareholder in the company, and despite months of discussion, we are now not on the same page. On that basis, we have mutually agreed to my departure from the company.”

Cindy Akus, communications and marketing manager for Fortune Interactive, said that differences in opinion about the future direction of the company did lead to Beal’s departure.

Beal has launched a new company, Market Pilgrim, as an Internet marketing consultant. The firm is based in Raleigh.

“I wish Fortune Interactive the very best of luck and hope they see many years of success,” Beal said in his blog. “The executive team that I leave behind is more than capable of growing the company and seeing success. Likewise the employees of FI are some of the best in the industry, and given the opportunity it would be my pleasure to work with them again in the future.”

For an LTW feature on Fortune Interactive, see: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=15202

Fortune Interactive: www.fortuneinteractive.com