Update: Symantec CEO replaced by company’s chairman

Security software vendor Symantec said Wednesday that Enrique Salem, its president and chief executive officer, had stepped down with immediate affect, after the company reported that its revenue for the quarter ended June 29 grew just 1 percent year-over-year to US$1.7 billion, while its profits sagged by 10 per cent, falling to $172 million.

Symantec said its board of directors has appointed Steve Bennett, the current chairman of the board, to also hold the posts of president and chief executive officer.

The board’s decision to make a leadership change was not based on any particular event or impropriety but was instead made after ongoing consideration and a deliberative process, said Dan Schulman, Symantec’s newly-appointed lead director, in a statement. Bennett however said that in his view “Symantec’s assets are strong and yet the company is underperforming against the opportunity.”

Bennet will take three to four months to outline a new strategy for Symantec, he said during a conference call discussing the quarterly results on Wednesday. The first thing that Symantec needs to do is sort through the way the market is evolving and then place its chips, Bennet said. “This is an evolution not a revolution,” he added.

After having assessed where Symantec is winning, where it’s losing, and why, it will be time to take the required decisions, he said. Possible moves might include reallocations or reorganizations, but it is too early to speculate about that, Bennet said.

In response to a question, Bennet said that he did not expect any disruptions in the business due to the sudden leadership change.

Symantec needs to ramp up its competitiveness in the mobile market, according to Bennet, who said his primary goal as CEO is to “win in the mobile market as we did in the PC market.”

Symantec will be focused on bringing new products to market that are very oriented toward the mobile world, said James Beer, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Symantec, during the call.

Symentec has observed a clear shift toward people buying security products more for their immediate needs rather than investing in the future, Beer said. Instead of buying licenses, people and enterprises are shifting to buying products on a subscription basis, which is “quite surprising,” Beer added. Enterprise subscriptions grew 24 percent year-over-year and Symantec was quite pleased with that result, he said.

Bennet emphasized that he will not be filling in as an interim leader. “I am the CEO,” he said. “And I told my wife that this might be a five year deal or may be a three year deal.” He said he will not turn over the leadership of the company until he’s comfortable with the direction it’s headed. When Bennet steps down he plans to retain the post of chairman, he said.

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