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Mystery over Verisign boss' shock exit

Like déjà vu all over again

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Wall Street shut down for the long July 4 weekend pondering a puzzler. It emerged yesterday that Verisign CEO Bill Roper had suddenly quit the firm to be replaced by the firm's founder and chairman, Jim Bidzos.

Roper took the helm at Verisign only last year. The firm said in its statement to investors and the media that he had actually vacated the top job on June 30.

The timing of the announcement raised eyebrows, and Wall Street sent Verisign shares down 1.3 per cent on the news.

No reason was given for Roper's exit. It seems all the more strange as his tenure saw the firm's stock rise more than 45 per cent. He was appointed in May last year after 12-year CEO Stratton Sclavos quit equally suddenly and mysteriously.

In a canned quotation concentrating on business facts rather than the personal praise corporations usually lavish on departing executives, Bidzos said: "Over the last year, Bill Roper led the development and implementation of the company’s strategy to focus the company on its core businesses.

"He's also improved the company’s capital structure with the repurchase of more than 28 per cent of the shares outstanding. We appreciate Bill's contributions in implementing this divestiture strategy, which the board and the company are fully committed to continuing."

In a conference call, Bidzos would only say that Verisign had reached a "natural tipping point" in its ongoing reorganisation and that had prompted Roper's resignation. ®

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