It's hard to think of RevZilla, the Navy Yard-based motorcycle-gear distributor, without picturing Anthony Bucci, the energetic, leather-jacketed, family-man Chief Executive Officer (and sparkplug of its engaging YouTube videos), who cofounded RevZilla in a Society Hill garage in the depths of the last recession with fellow Drexel grads Matt Kull (now Chief Operating Officer) and Nick Auger (Chief Technology Officer).

But Bucci has decided to "transition out of the CEO role," he says, ten months after combining the company with private-equity investor JW Childs and its store chain, Cycle Gear (think Amazon meets Sears, on two wheels).

"Anthony has literally brought the RevZilla brand to life," said Kull, now interim CEO, in a statement.

Let's check, for a moment, the boardroom math: The Philly squad — the three cofounders — are a minority on the combined board of the controlling company, Comoto Holdings; they are outnumbered by the Childs  reps. (Updated)

So Bucci couldn't stay if the investors had decided it was time to find someone else to scale up the business, which has grown from 170 office, warehouse, marketing and software workers last winter to around 220 since the big deal.

But the company line, and Bucci's, is that he's the one who recognized and decided —  after nine years as a start-it, grow-it guy — that it's time to let a run-it person take over. 

This wasn't anyone's plan all along, when you merged with JW Child and Cycle Gear last winter? "I did not see it coming," Bucci told me.

What he wrote back in February when word of the deal leaked out: "
RevZilla could easily follow the double yellow [lines down the highway] and be successful doing what we’ve always done. But we like new challenges, placing big bets and playing to win... 

"We also like to think that we understand the next generation of commerce and have the vision to shape what we believe the future should be. It’s in our DNA as entrepreneurs...  Matt, Nick and I are still firmly at the helm."

Now, Bucci says: "It was my choice. It's me. 
"As I looked around the corner, at all the things we need to do, which is easier to do when you're a founder and a big shareholder, I saw [that] as you build taller you have to approach framing and structure a little different."

There was no Showdown at the Private Equity Corral? "It was a lot of processing on my own, conversations with my cofounders," Bucci said. "We agreed at the board level on the next strategy. The totality of the ecosystem. And as we did, I saw the best thing for the next leap was for me to bow out."

If it wasn't obvious last winter, it's been made clear to Bucci now, that the RevZilla boss' job had morphed, from the high-energy quick-reaction skills of a founder, to the vision and execution of a professional manager scaling the company up, integrating its multimedia marketing and customer engagement with its affiliate's retail distribution, and new partnerships. 

Boston Consulting Group in 2013 surveyed 60 private-company CEOs and their private-equity investors. Findings: "PE firms...  demand that CEOs execute on stated plans and goals... with a hands-on operating style. CEOs, by contrast, believe that it is their role to focus more intently on the big picture."

Also from the Boston report: "PE professionals want CEOs to focus more on the long term [and] to be biased toward risk-taking. By contrast, CEOs believe they need to balance risk-taking with risk mitigation. These divergent views go a long way toward explaining why the relationship between the PE firm and the CEO can sometimes go awry."

"It's the exception and not the rule, that the CEO lasts more than a year after a private equity firm buys a controlling interest," says Mark Naples, Philadelphia-based managing partner at Wit Strategy, an advisory firm to tech companies. "The PE firm almost always is making the acquisition because they think they can discover and exploit more efficiencies, if not more value, after the purchase."

Might RevZilla cofounder Kull become permanent CEO? "He's tremendous," Bucci says, while hedging on the question. "You know him a little less, because I've been such a dominant personality. But we were at ground zero together, working in the kitchen, building up and down the org chart."

Bucci remains on the Comoto board. He'll still produce and feature in videos, Comoto assures us, while "contributing to strategic digital, product and customer roadmaps."

"Everybody's happy, including me," Bucci adds. "Being a CEO is all-consuming." His wife — "the CEO of our home, she's awesome" — and their five young children will see him more, he promises.
No family vacations up til now, really?  "Come on! I'm here every day. Start-up life, it's like my sixth kid."
So he's heading, where, for a week? "Haven't thought of that yet. I'm sure we'll end up at Disney at some point in the next 12 months."
If the board ends up hiring a hotshot CEO from the West Coast or New York, will RevZilla leave Philadelphia? "None of us is thinking that far downstream," Bucci said.
"The core and the beating heart of the company is in Philly. Our talent is Philly talent. No person we add to the team is more important than the culture and foundation we have in this city." Board meetings alternate between Philadelphia and West Coast sites closer to Cycle Gear headquarters in Benicia, Calif. 
Can Anthony Bucci really settle back to a mix of home life and a lunchbox workweek? Never to build another start-up?
"I don't have any big idea lined up today," Bucci reflects. "But I'm a start-up guy. I won't take that off the table. Just, there's no master plan."
And he's still at RevZilla, with a minority ownership stake and a seat at the table: "I'll be the most actively involved board member," he promises. "Across both companies."