5 Companies That Had A Rough Week

The Week Ending Sept. 9

Topping this week's roundup of companies that had a rough week was FireEye, whose departure of its founder and board member this week raised concerns about the security company's direction.

Also making the list were Samsung, which continues to scramble amid a growing number of reports of Galaxy Note7 smartphone fires; Oracle, whose plan to acquire cloud application vendor NetSuite hit a potential roadblock; the OpenOffice project, which is struggling to keep its development efforts going; and Xerox, which is losing a major technology talent to retirement.

Not everyone in the IT industry was having a rough go of it this week. For a rundown of companies that made smart decisions, executed savvy strategic moves – or just had good luck – check out this week's 5 Companies That Came To Win roundup.

Partners Concerned As FireEye Founder Resigns From Board

FireEye disclosed this week that founder and technical visionary Ashar Aziz had resigned from the security vendor's board of directors, a position he had held since 2004 when he founded the company.

FireEye sought to downplay Aziz's departure, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and to pursue new projects, and was not the result of any kind of disagreement.

But FireEye channel partners expressed worry about the development – one called it "extremely disconcerting" – as it comes at a time of growing concerns about the vendor's future as it faces increased competition and its stock has plunged from $38.29 per share one year ago to less than $17 per share. And there were fears Aziz's departure could lead to an exodus of FireEye's technical talent.

News of Aziz's departure came in an 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. His resignation was effective Aug. 31.

FAA Issues Warning Over Galaxy Note7 Fire Hazard

Last week Samsung made our "Rough Week" list because of reports of the manufacturer's new Galaxy Note7 smartphone catching fire, leading to a complete recall of the product. Usually we don't pile on and put a company on this list for the same issue two weeks in a row. But the problems surrounding the Galaxy Note7 seriously escalated this week.

On Friday the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration took the unusual step of singling out the Galaxy Note7 as a potential airborne fire hazard, advising travelers not to turn on or charge the devices while in the air and not to stow them in checked baggage. And some airlines, including Quantas and Virgin Australia, have warned passengers against using or charging their phones on their planes.

The FAA action caused Samsung's stock to plunge 3.9 percent Friday, wiping out more than $10 billion of the company's market value, according to a Wall Street Journal story.

Meanwhile, reports of fire incidents with the Samsung device continued to accumulate, including a report in The Register of a St. Petersburg, Fla., man whose Jeep Grand Cherokee was destroyed by a fire apparently started when he left his Galaxy Note7 charging in the vehicle.

Oracle Acquisition Of NetSuite Faces Opposition From Shareholder

Oracle's proposed $9.3 billion acquisition of cloud application vendor NetSuite hit a potential roadblock this week when T. Rowe Price Associates, one of NetSuite's largest shareholders, argued that the $109 per share selling price is too low and won't tender its shares by the Sept. 15 deadline.

In a letter dated Sept. 6 to NetSuite's board of directors, 10 T. Rowe Price portfolio managers made a number of arguments as to why the $109 per share price doesn't reflect NetSuite's full value. The portfolio executives note that Oracle chairman and CTO Larry Ellison has a "unique relationship" with NetSuite – he owns nearly 40 percent of NetSuite's stock and family members own another 5 percent – and suggests that has prevented other potential buyers from coming forward.

"In our view, the inherent conflicts of interest between NetSuite, the Ellison entities and Oracle are daunting and may be impossible to manage," says the letter, a copy of which was filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "At this time none of the portfolio managers who own NetSuite stock within our firm intend to follow the board's recommendation to tender our shares by September 15."

OpenOffice Software Development Project Could Shut Down Due To Lack Of Support

OpenOffice, the Apache application suite development project that was intended to offer an open-source alternative to Microsoft Office, is in trouble.

Published reports in Fortune say the OpenOffice project is in danger of shutting down, suffering from limited funding and, especially, a lack of interest from volunteer developers.

Dennis Hamilton, a volunteer vice president of the project, reportedly sent an email to OpenOffice developers outlining the situation and proposed contingency plans for shutting down OpenOffice development work.

Xerox Losing Longtime CTO To Retirement

With Xerox on the verge of splitting into two companies, word came this week that Sophie V. Vandebroek will retire from her post as Xerox's chief technology officer once the split occurs at the end of this year.

Vandebroek has been with Xerox for 25 years, including serving as CTO for the past 10 years. Prior to that she was Xerox chief engineer and was a vice president of Xerox Research Center Canada. And for the past nine years she's also worn the hat of board chairman for the Palo Alto Research Center – Xerox's much vaunted research and development center once called Xerox PARC.

Technology and management expertise (and especially the combination of the two) of Vandebroek's caliber is a rarity and her departure leaves a big void to fill as the new Xerox moves on.