Symantec Finalizing CEO Candidates, Plans September Announcement

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Symantec is nearing completion of its search to fill the chief executive position, telling Wall Street analysts on Wednesday that an announcement is planned by the end of September.

The board of directors will mull over the finalists this month, said Michael Brown, who has been serving as interim CEO since March, when the company's board of directors ousted Steve Bennett from the position.  

"The search committee has received strong inbound interest and has already met with a number of highly qualified candidates," Brown said during its fiscal-first-quarter analyst call. "The committee is in the process of narrowing the field to a handful of executives and is vetting the finalists among those."

[Related: Symantec Partners Seek Balanced CEO To Jump-Start Momentum]

When pressed by financial analysts for more details about the likely candidates, Brown said the company is looking for an executive with experience in the technology industry who can operate a global-scale multiproducts business. The candidate must have a collaborative leadership style and, ideally, experience as a public company CEO.

"We've got from the finalists, candidates that meet all of those, and we have candidates where we're looking that may not meet all of those, but they might be outstanding in one or two of those," Brown said.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company reported that earnings increased by 50 percent for its fiscal first quarter, beating analyst expectations. Symantec reported a profit of $236 million, or 34 cents a share, compared with $157 million, or 22 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose nearly 2 percent to $1.74 billion. Symantec's earnings news was viewed positively by Wall Street. Its stock was up more than 3 percent Thursday morning with shares trading at $24.50. 

Symantec's channel partners said a new chief executive would need to be more balanced than the company's previous CEOs, which either focused heavily on products and acquisitions or, like ousted CEO Steve Bennett, fully engaged in cost reduction and trimming the workforce. Some names that are quietly surfacing as potential candidates include Patricia Russo, who was chairman of Lucent Technologies and served as CEO of Alcatel-Lucent, and Paul Otellini, who retired from his last position as president and CEO of Intel. John Becker, who was appointed CEO of Sourcefire just prior to its acquisition by Cisco Systems last year, is also seen by some security industry observers as a possible suitor. The company also is said to have reached out to potential candidates from storage and cloud services vendors.

"There are customers asking questions, but they follow Symantec closely and understand that it is really trying to become more nimble and in a state of transition," said Kevin Wheeler, founder and managing director at Dallas-based information security services company InfoDefense, a Symantec partner. "The dust is starting to settle in some areas."

Symantec also is interviewing candidates for chief products officer, who would be responsible for product strategy across its portfolio. 

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