Former Symantec CEO: 'We Did The Best Job We Could But Not The Best Job Possible'


Former Symantec CEO John W. Thompson, the driving force behind the blockbuster $11 billion 2005 merger of security giant Symantec and one time storage powerhouse Veritas, says he still feels the storage-security vision behind the deal was sound, but admits the execution could have been better.

"No one could ever say how it has played out was a good thing because the stock price has not performed consistently," said Thompson, who left Symantec after 10 years as CEO in April 2009. "The company has not performed consistently. I would never be one to argue 'Gee we did the best job possible.' We did the best job we could, but not the best job possible."

That said, Thompson, who is now the CEO of Virtual Instruments, a fast growing, San Jose, Calif., provider of infrastructure performance management solutions for virtual and cloud computing environments, said he still backs the vision of tightly integrating storage and security.

[Related: 10 Questions For Symantec CEO Steve Bennett]

"The vision that we had of securing and managing data I won't ever back away from," said Thompson, whose new company Virtual Instruments was recognized by Forbes this year as third on the list of America's Most Promising Companies. "That is not a bad idea. That is a beautiful, brilliant idea. We could have done a better job of executing.

"I think it is fair to say that as more data volumes exist, the need to secure and manage those volumes will never be less," said Thompson. "That problem is going to get bigger."

Thompson's comments come with Symantec in the midst of a major restructuring with new CEO Steve Bennett, who took the helm in July 2012, planning major marketing and sales cuts.

As a percentage of revenue, Bennett has said marketing and sales will go from 41 percent of revenue to 27 percent with the company relying more heavily on solution provider partners.

Bennett replaced former CEO Enrique Salem in July following quarterly earnings that fell nearly 10 percent. He joined Symantec's board in 2010 and was previously CEO of Intuit from 2000 to 2007. Shortly after taking the helm, Bennett pledged to refocus the company.

As to whether Bennett would be better off backing away from the security storage vision that propelled the merger in the first place, Thompson said: "That is up to Steve [Bennett] to decide at this point or it was up to Enrique [Salem] to decide when he was there. So I don't want to preordain or preconceive the notion of what Steve's strategy should be. He runs the company. I don't run the company. I am off doing something else and having fun."

So does Thompson have any regrets about his decade long tenure as CEO of Symantec? "None at all," he said. "You don't take any risks, you don't get any rewards."

PUBLISHED APRIL 5, 2013