Simon Baker, CEO of Australian headquartered REA Group has left the company, effective immediately. REA Group operates in Australia, nine other country-specific sites, and a global property site. In a brief statement announcing Baker’s departure, Chairman Richard Freudenstein thanked him for his efforts but noted that “the Board feels that it is time for new leadership to take us to the next level.”

Freudentstein is also CEO of News Digital Media (News owns 58 percent of REA) and there has always been a degree of distance between the two businesses, something Baker told us some time ago that he supported. The announcement came just before the commencement of a REA management conference.

In his time at REA, Baker had oversight of expansion of the company from into New Zealand, the U.K., Italy and locations as diverse as Luxembourg and Dubai, at times with the assistance or joint stockholding by News Corp’s local media operations.

Freudenstein also made it clear in the statement that the 2007 /2009 results, due for release in a few weeks, would be strong. Revenues are expected to grow by over 40 percent and EBITDA growth should exceed that.

CFO Georg Chmiel will act as CEO for now and no announcement has been made as to how and when a search for a new chief will commence.

Baker joined REA in 2001, and was re-affirmed to his position as CEO and managing director only five months ago. At the time, Freudenstein said in a statement he was “extremely pleased that Simon has agreed to extend his commitment to the company.” Baker attended last month’s Inman Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco.

As for REA Group’s “next level,” presuming it’s still on an expansion course, that would mean eventually cracking North America’s real estate advertising industry, where it’s crowded at the top. In a recent report by Global Edge, a real estate marketing company in the U.K., ranked No. 4 in the world in page ranks, inbound links, traffic estimates and the number of mentions in the news – behind, and, in that order. Global Edge used Seattle-based search-optimization firm  SEOMoz’s Trifecta Tool to come up with the rankings.

At the end of August, REA is expected to report its annual financial report for the fiscal year that ended in June. Unofficially, the company expects to report revenues somewhere in the AUD $150 million range ($140 million USD) — up at least 40 percent — and EBITDA of $35 million AUD and $37 million up 49 percent to 57 percent.  According to reports, the group had more than 22,400 real estate agents paying to use its services in June, up 5,400 from June 2007.