Scott McNealy passes Sun torch

The man who claimed he put the dot in dot-com has stepped down as the CEO of the company he ran for nearly a quarter century.

Sun Microsystems Inc. chief executive officer and co-founder Scott McNealy said the timing was right to install Jonathan Schwartz as CEO.

It gives Schwartz a chance to plan the next fiscal year, said McNealy, who is still chairman. He added that it was his decision and he asked and received board approval for it.

McNealy, 51, also tied up some loose ends before giving up command to Schwartz. He made sure Sun launched the UltraSparc T1 chip, Galaxy, and the latest version of Solaris. He also ensured that the company’s relationship with Microsoft was on solid ground.

“This is a big day for everyone and for me,” McNealy said. “It’s been more than 22 years that I’ve been running this joint and I had a good time running it. I would love to do it more, but we have a good guy and we worked hard to get this guy here.”

Stephane Boisvert, senior vice-president of Sun’s global client solution organization and chairman of Sun Canada, said McNealy is a shy person in a one-on-one talk.

“Transparency,” Boisvert said is what he likes best about McNealy. “He would tell it like it is.”

Boisvert recalled Project Chicago, which was formed to push Windows 95. Against public pressure, McNealy did not back Project Chicago. He wanted to push for Java and open standards on the Net.

“This is what I appreciated about him. His passion to create technology for sustainable communities,” Boisvert said.

The historic Microsoft partnership of 2004 — a deal many believed McNealy had to swallow his pride to do — has turned out to favour Sun, he said. Sun received about US$2 billion and the interoperability with both platforms was something customers wanted. “Since that day we do not talk about Microsoft a lot and they have their own set of challenges. They are not the clear winner. Microsoft has invested more on the Internet and that supports our key vision of the Net is the computer,” Boisvert said.

Schwartz, 40, joined Sun in 1996 as part of the acquisition of Lighthouse Design Ltd.

He moved up Sun’s ladder by holding seven different job titles.

“He has something rare and it is courage, and I checked him out on character and he never blinks,” McNealy said of his heir apparent.

Schwartz’s first mandate as Sun CEO will be to institute a 90-day corporate growth plan, including more spending on R&D, and marketing, as well as reviews of priorities and corporate resources. “We want to align our organization for growth,” he said. “You do not build a house with a sub-contractor. You hire an architect. We are architecting a business for future technology.”

One of Schwartz’s first decisions was to double up offices for senior management. For example, he will share an office with CFO Michael Lehman, and McNealy will share his office with Crawford Beveridge, chief human resources officer.

McNealy will continue as chairman of Sun Federal Inc.

“You start a company and you wonder who will carry it on,” he said. “You can’t run a company forever and it was too fast to hand it off during the bubble years. We had to get the company stabilized to get across the board growth. The time was right to do it now.”

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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