Symantec Axes CEO Bennett, Names Brown Interim Boss

steve-bennettSymantec’s (SYMC) board of directors abruptly ousted President and Chief Executive Steve Bennett, whose tenure at the security company’s helm lasted a short but eventful 20 months, replacing him on an interim basis with board member Michael Brown, a former Quantum (QTM) boss.

Bennett, who took previous chief Enrique Salem’s job in July 2012, vowed to streamline operations, prune midmanagement’s ranks and reframe the company around a more succinct mobility and security lineup. He apparently took the hit for Symantec’s sliding revenue, sagging share price and sluggish delivery of new products. In addition to handing over his titles, Bennett also resigned his position on the board.

As a side note, Salem now is a member of Symantec rival FireEye’s (FEYE) board of directors. FireEye is among a growing number of younger security vendors challenging Symantec’s conventional approach, aiming instead at intrusion detection and prevention.

Symantec said it has appointed a special committee of the board to collaborate with an executive search firm to find Bennett’s successor.

Board chairman Daniel Schulman said Bennett’s firing did not result from any one event or behavior but stemmed from what he termed “an ongoing deliberative process,” in which he was found lacking on product innovation and growth.

“We recognize Steve’s contributions to Symantec, including developing and leading a series of successful initiatives focused on organizational realignment, cost reduction and process effectiveness,” said Schulman. “These changes have helped establish a solid foundation for Symantec’s future, and we remain committed to our previously announced greater-than 5 percent organic revenue growth and better-than 30 percent non-GAAP operating margin targets by FY17.”

Symantec’s revenue fell 4.8 percent to $1.7 billion for the quarter ending Dec. 27. In tandem with announcing Bennett’s departure, Symantec said it expects sales in the current quarter will slide from $1.75 billion a year ago to between $1.62 billion and $1.66 billion. GAAP diluted earnings per share are expected between 29 cents and 31 cents, as compared to 27 cents in the year-ago period.

Brown, who joined Symantec’s board in 2005 following the Veritas merger, said he will focus on product innovation and growth.

“With recent key hires, we have a leadership team in place that is capable of accelerating our growth and I look forward to working closely with them to help execute the next phase of the company’s transformation plan,” he said.

“The need for protecting and managing your information has never been stronger, and we must act aggressively to capture a growing share of this market,” Brown said. “By concentrating on product innovation and growth initiatives, we aim to leverage Symantec’s tremendous assets across both consumer and enterprise applications to enhance our position as a market leader.”

On Bennett’s watch, Symantec last April rolled out Symantec 4.0, its new customer-focused sales strategy with an increased emphasis on channel partners. Under the revamped sales model, field reps are incented to work with channel partners with more resources invested in business development activities and enablement.

Justin Moore, Axcient chief executive, defended Bennett’s performance at Symantec’s helm.

“When Bennett announced his vision for Symantec 4.0, which was announced less than a year ago, he made the right choices—for the most part,” Moore said in an email. “Yet, Symantec was already too far behind the cloud/SaaS curve to catch up. A change of this magnitude is impossible in less than three to five years.”

Moore said Symantec’s problems extend beyond Bennett’s control. “Like so many other enterprise software companies, it has struggled to transition to the enterprise cloud world proving that it is indeed a systemic issue that goes far beyond Bennett’s control.”

By |March 24, 2014|People on the Move| 15002 Views |

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