Partners Sound Off On F5 Networks CEO's Abrupt Resignation

Less than six months after becoming president and CEO of F5 Networks, Manny Rivelo abruptly resigned this week, leaving partners scratching their heads.

"I was taken aback -- it definitely was a shocker for us for sure," said one executive of a solution provider and longtime F5 channel partner, who declined to be identified. "He's been with them for years and is only now resigning after [becoming CEO]? … There's definitely still a lot of questions to be answered."

According to a Dec. 14 SEC filing, F5's board accepted the immediate resignation of Rivelo, which was "not due to any disagreement with the Company on any matter relating to the Company's operations, policies or practices." The board reappointed former longtime CEO and board Chairman John McAdams to replace Rivelo while the board undertakes a formal search process to find a permanent replacement, said an F5 spokesperson in an email to CRN.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: F5 CEO Manny Rivelo Talks Channel Sales Initiative And Entering Hyper-Converged Market]

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"Manuel Rivelo resigned for matters unrelated to the operations or financials of the company," said F5 to CRN.

On Dec. 14, F5's stock hit a year low of $95.77 per share, compared with $129.95 on Dec. 14, 2014. Shares gained back some momentum Dec. 15, rising to $99.75. As of Thursday afternoon, F5 shares were at $99.82.

In April, F5 revealed that Rivelo was appointed to become the new CEO and president starting July 1 to replace McAdams. Rivelo had joined F5 in 2011 as executive vice president of strategic solutions after serving a 19-year stint at Cisco.

Solution providers had hoped that Rivelo would "breathe new life" into the company.

F5 partners now say they hope McAdams can hold the company together while they find a new CEO.

"It doesn't look like he'll be coming back, so they were lucky that McAdams was still hanging around," said one executive from a solution provider and F5 partner, ranked on the CRN SP500 list, who did not wished to be named. "[F5] would have been staggered or slowed down for a bit, which would have been terrible in this type of market environment, but they grabbed John back over for a bit, and we've always had confidence in John, and [he] actually was the one who grew this company, so it's OK right now."

In McAdams' 15-year tenure, the company's annual revenue grew from $108 million to more than $1.7 billion, while F5 revolutionized how applications are deployed, managed and secured. In a statement, McAdams thanked Rivelo for his work at F5.

"I want to thank Manny for his many contributions to F5 over the past four years. Manny has been a key member of F5's strong leadership team who have developed our current strategy," said McAdams in the statement.

Alan Higginson, F5's lead independent director, has been appointed non-executive chairman of the board while McAdams focuses on his new role. Higginson said in a statement: "I want to emphasize that these actions are in no way related to the Company’s operating performance or financial condition. This change in management, while unexpected, is strictly related to personal conduct matters."

Rivelo isn't the only top executive who left the Seattle-based application-delivery networking company recently. Last month, worldwide marketing leader and former longtime channel chief Dean Darwin announced he was leaving F5 after more than a decade.

"After almost 11 years at F5, I have decided it was time for a break," wrote Darwin in a Nov. 21 blog post. "Going to take some much needed time off and recharge the batteries and figure out the next chapter of my life. … Going to disappear over the holidays and come back ready to go into 2016 excited to see what is next."

For F5's fourth quarter, the company saw revenues reach $501 million, up 8 percent year over year, and reported record earnings per share of $1.36.