Mountain View information protection giant Symantec has given its chief executive officer, Steve Bennett, the boot. Board member Michael Brown will take over immediately as interim president and CEO while Symantec, which produces Norton Antivirus, seeks out a new leader.
After less than two years on the job, Bennett has been terminated from Symantec and resigned from its board of directors. He’s the second CEO to leave in as many years. After acknowledging what Bennett brought to the company, having worked on and spearheaded “organizational realignment, cost reduction and process effectiveness” initiatives, board chairman Daniel Schulman said Symantec now focuses on finding “a leader who can leverage [the] company’s assets and leadership team to drive the next stage of Symantec’s product innovation and growth.”
Schulman called the decision to fire Bennett the outcome of “an ongoing deliberative process, and not precipitated by any event or impropriety.” He used similar phrasing in 2012 when Symantec said goodbye to its president previous chief executive, Enrique Salem, who had served for more than three years as president and CEO.
The process that led to Bennett’s firing most likely included a look at the company’s financials, which have sometimes trended down since he took over. Symantec does not release its fourth quarter earnings until May, but the company released projections forecasting revenues between $1.62 and $1.66 billion, which would mark a 9.5 to 12.2 percent increase from when Salem departed in Q1 of 2013. Numbers from Q1 2014, a year after Salem had gone, show net income had fallen from $160 million to $157 million.
Bennett leaves behind more than a shaky financial legacy behind at Symantec. The outgoing CEO spurred reorganization efforts at the company, moves which were to lead to wide-reaching layoffs. “We’re in the middle of rightsizing our management structure,” he said in Symantec’s Q4 earnings call. “We expect to eliminate between 30 percent and 40 percent of our management positions.” AllThingsD put the cuts affecting up to 1,700 jobs last June.
News of Bennett’s ousting was no solace to stakeholders, however. In after-hours trading yesterday, Symantec’s shares halted for a short time. The company’s stock closed yesterday at $20.91 and opened today at $18.72, marking a dip of 10.5 percent.
In 2012, Symantec led the security software segment with 19.6 percent market share, according to Gartner. The company trumped McAfee and Trend Micro in the $19.2 billion industry, but saw revenues augment by just 2.6 percent, from $3.65 billion to $3.75 billion, between 2011 and 2012. Meanwhile, McAfee pulled a 37 percent boost over the same period to hit $1.68 billion in revenues. Symantec’s market cap stood at $12.59 billion as of 4:40 p.m. in San Diego.
Executive shakeups sometimes scare shareholders because they signal instability. Symantec sought to reassure the public in its statement, saying the company was committed to achieving more than 5 percent organic revenue growth and better-than 30 percent non-GAAP operating margin targets by full-year 2017. Considering the company’s recent performance, Symantec must endeavor to steady its ship to ensure that growth doesn’t move the company a few steps forward and more steps back.