Symantec Fires CEO Bennett In Middle Of Company Transition

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Symantec has fired CEO Steve Bennett, who was in the second year of a complete overhaul of the company's product and go-to-market strategy. Some of Symantec's top partners tell CRN that the move comes as a complete shock and signals continued turmoil at the company.

The Symantec board of directors appointed Michael Brown as interim president and chief executive officer, effective immediately. The company said a special committee of the board will immediately begin the search for a permanent CEO with the assistance of a leading executive search firm. Symantec stock was halted temporarily following the announcement late Thursday. It dropped as much as 10 percent in after-hours trading. 

"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 Daniel Schulman, chairman of Symantec's board of directors, in a statement. "Our priority is now to identify a leader who can leverage our company's assets and leadership team to drive the next stage of Symantec's product innovation and growth. This considered decision was the result of an ongoing deliberative process, and not precipitated by any event or impropriety."


Brown joined Symantec's board of directors following the company's merger with storage giant Veritas Software in July 2005, and previously served as chairman and chief executive officer of Quantum.

Bennett was appointed CEO in July 2012, replacing Enrique Salem, who served in the position for three years but oversaw mediocre financial results. Bennett unveiled Symantec 4.0 in January 2013, which prompted a year of internal transition, including the layoff of hundreds of employees. He focused on overhauling the go-to-market strategy, impacting roughly 90 percent of the sales force. He told CRN last month that the company was preparing to unveil a product road map that included integrated parts of the security portfolio, but admitted that 2014 would be another year of transition. Symantec's third-quarter revenue, released in January, fell to $1.71 billion from $1.79 billion, a year earlier.

A Symantec Platinum-level partner, speaking on condition of anonymity, had been enthusiastic about the changes instituted by Bennett. The company was transitioning to rely more heavily on a select group of 100 or so U.S. partners, including the partner's firm.  

"I admit this has me completely shocked. We have been getting so much about the need to buy into the 4.0 strategy," the partner told CRN. "The fact that there has been so much turnover and transition in such a short period of time will raise some question marks in the minds of our customers."

NEXT: Partners Express Dismay

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