Partners: New Symantec CEO Is Right Choice To Take Security Vendor To Next Phase

When Symantec announced in April that CEO Michael Brown would be stepping down, partners pushed for the security vendor to choose a leader who could lead it to the next wave of growth.

Now, with this week's announcement that Greg Clark has been chosen to lead the $6.5 billion security vendor, partners said they feel hopeful that the right leader is in place to move the company forward.

Clark comes to Symantec as part of the Mountain View, Calif.-based company's blockbuster $4.65 billion acquisition of Blue Coat Systems, where Clark is CEO. Symantec announced its planned acquisition of the web and cloud security company late Sunday night. It also said Clark will take over as CEO once the deal is completed, which is expected in the third quarter of this year.

[Related: Q&A: New Symantec CEO Talks Blue Coat Acquisition, Integration Roadmap And Plans For Partners]

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"I'm very excited to be leading Symantec," Clark said. "Symantec has a phenomenal history of solving very difficult problems in cyber defense, across consumer and the enterprise. Combined with Blue Coat … we have the technical power and the intellectual property to really change the industry and how that works. I'm very excited about that."

Clark has been CEO of Blue Coat since 2011, his most recent position in a long career in software and security company leadership roles. Since taking that job, he helped lead the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company through a period of turnaround, which included taking it private through a private equity acquisition and more recently making multiple key acquisitions to plant its stake in the cloud security market.

Partners said Clark's appointment is "awesome." Jason Eberhardt, vice president of strategic alliances at Chicago-based Conventus, said Clark's experience and track record of growth were particularly compelling.

"That's a match made in heaven," Eberhardt said. "I'm very excited … I can't wait to meet this guy and look at what he brings to the table," he said.

Steve Barone, president and CEO of Ferndale, Mich.-based CBI, said previous operationally-focused management had helped Symantec navigate through difficult times and he was looking forward to seeing a security leader back in the top spot.

"I'm excited to have an information security CEO in the helm," Barone said.

When outgoing CEO Brown announced he would step down as soon as a successor was found, Chairman Dan Schulman said the company would search for an executive candidate who is a great leader who can "inspire and lead Symantec forward," someone with experience in the software business, strong operational capabilities, and an executive with a background in cybersecurity. He said Symantec would like to find an executive with at least three of those four capabilities.

The Monday after the acquisition, Schulman said on an investor call that Clark "checks all the boxes of what we were looking for," pointing to his software background, operational rigor and discipline as key attributes.

"[Clark] is the right person to lead Symantec forward," Schulman said on the call. "We felt this [acquisition] was one of those rare transactions that could be both transformative for customers, transformative for our company inside by getting the right leader and transformative for shareholders."

Andrew Nowinski, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, agreed that Clark had many of the necessary qualities needed for the Symantec CEO role, including a strong operational and software background. He praised Clark's track record of turning around Blue Coat into a "full blown security provider" and driving the growth of a subscription-based revenue model.

"I think operationally he did a good job … and I think he has the technical background needed as well. I think he'll be a good fit for the CEO role," Nowinski said.

Michael Fey, COO and president at Blue Coat, said in an interview with CRN that Clark is "dearly loved at Blue Coat as a great leader." In particular, Fey said Clark is a big believer in the channel, creating what he said is a "very channel-friendly" approach at Blue Coat.

"Greg is a channel-friendly CEO. What that stems from is he understands how the market is driven … and appreciates the value the channel can bring, and fosters an environment where they can bring the maximum amount of value to bear," Fey said.

John Thompson, global vice president of partner and channel sales at Symantec, said those attributes, combined with an ability to deliver strong products and routes to market, will make Clark a good fit for the CEO role.

"Greg is someone who is deep in the cybersecurity industry. He is very familiar with it and has a proven track record of growing security companies, with double-digit growth and working with a partner community with multiple routes to market … I think that will be important to our partners," Thompson said.