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Symantec CEO Mike Brown ousted after nasty numbers

Board says with Veritas gone, its time for pure-play security CEO

Symantec CEO Mike A. Brown will leave the company, after it today announced it will miss its projected Q4 2016 sales.

Symantec has previously forecast sales of between US$885m and $915m. Advice released today suggested the actual result will be closer to $873m, a small but nasty miss.

The company's tried to explain the miss (PDF), to put a positive spin on the miss, as follows:

A shift in enterprise security customer buying preferences is resulting in less license revenue during the quarter and more revenue being deferred to future periods. This included a faster than expected shift within our product mix to subscription and ratable contract structures.

We think that's filing-speak for “when people move to the cloud, we get 1/24 of the revenue we'll eventually receive, rather than lovely fat up-front payment for a two-year licence.” That's a problem Symantec's not alone in struggling to navigate.

It's not the reason board chair Daniel H. Schulman says Brown's being asked to depart.

Syamntec's canned statement depicts the move as a “CEO Transition Plan” that's apposite because Brown did all that was asked of him by divesting Veritas and positioning Symantec for life as a pure-play security company.

“Given our solid financial foundation and clear path forward as the leader in cybersecurity, this is the right time to transition leadership for Symantec’s next chapter of growth,” Schulman writes.

The Register met Brown last year and was a little surprised to learn his strategy was more and deeper product integration in Symantec's security product line, given that a very similar strategy of integrating security and storage software failed.

Brown's also stepping down as Symantec president. Dr. Ajei S. Gopal will serve in that role and as chief operating officer, both in interim capacities.

Brown took the CEO's chair in September 2014, after a six-month stint as interim CEO. His ascent meant Symantec had three CEOs in as many years. We're now looking at four in half a decade, nasty instability at a time demand for security wares have never been higher.

Little wonder Symantec shares were down 6.9 per cent on the news. ®

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