Salem Takes CEO Reins At Symantec

Symantec first announced that Salem was to take over as CEO following Thompson's scheduled retirement in November 2008. Thompson officially stepped down as CEO last week after serving 10 years as head of the company.

Looking ahead in his new executive role, Salem acknowledged that he is facing the challenge of heading a company in light of a worldwide economic recession that has crimped budgets and bogged down IT sales across all product categories.

"The economy is not that robust, but if we can go to [partners] with clear product strategies, things that customers want to buy, then they don't waste their time," Salem said during a recent interview. "The partners who work with us right now are going to do very well. We do have the ability to show that clear ROI."

Prior to Salem's appointment as CEO, he held the position of the company's chief operating officer, in which he focused on the integration of security, data loss prevention and storage management. Before his role as COO, Salem held many executive positions at Symantec, including president of the Symantec worldwide sales and marketing team, in which he focused on driving new license revenue and extending the company's presence in the SMB space. He also served as group president of the consumer business unit at Symantec, where he drove development of its flagship consumer antivirus product Norton 360.

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Salem came to Symantec in 2004 when it acquired Brightmail, where he was CEO. Prior to his tenure at Brightmail, Salem served as senior vice president of products and technology at infrastructure software company Oblix. In addition, he also held the position of vice president of Ask Jeeves and worked as a lead engineer at Peter Norton Company before it was acquired by Symantec in 1999.

Among the numerous issues he planned to tackle as CEO, Salem said that improved channel communication and ensuring smoother product integration were some of the highest priorities, adding that Symantec's channel partners will become "an increasingly important part" of the company's business.

"From a partner perspective, the CEO has got to work with partners and customers to make it easier to do business with Symantec," Salem said. "We've got a large field organization of channel managers and account managers. They want us to do a better job of communicating internally around specific engagements and around specific channel partners."

Communication with channel partners became an increasingly important issue in the last 12 months for the company. Salem came under fire in July of 2008 from channel partners after he announced to the Wall Street investment community that Symantec planned to give its largest 900 enterprise customers the option of taking deals direct.

Thompson's retirement, made official last week, follows after 10 years as head of the company. Under Thompson's watch, Symantec grew from a small antivirus company to a $6 billion global enterprise storage and security leader, and the fourth largest software company in the world.

Thompson's retirement comes on the heels of a weakening corporate outlook and an uncertain economy. While Symantec reported better than expected earnings and increased profits for its third quarter of fiscal year 2009, sales revenues fell slightly to $1.51 billion from $1.52 billion, and were anticipated to drop to somewhere between $1.4 and $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter. Some of the fallout was attributed to share dilution from the purchase of messaging security company MessageLabs, which Symantec acquired in October of 2008.

The company also experienced a steady decline in its security sector and only incremental growth in other divisions. Going forward, Symantec executives anticipated that financial conditions would remain challenging into the fourth quarter of 2009.

However, Thompson told reporters and investors in November that his planned retirement was independent of the company's fiscal outlook or the "broader macroeconomic environment" but rather had more to do with his own longevity of 10 years at the company. He added that 10 years was "long enough" at any company.