Symantec in Search of a New Chief After Firing CEO Steve Bennett

Paul Lilly

Shares of Symantec tumble after security outfit shows its CEO the door

Security firm Symantec announced that it has terminated Steve Bennett as the company's president and chief executive officer , as well as his resignation from Symantec's board of directors. A special committee has begun the search for a permanent replacement, during which time board member Michael Brown will serve as interim CEO. The decision to let Bennett go didn't sit well with investors, who were caught off guard by his surprise dismissal yesterday.

Symantec's share price fell more than 9 percent in pre-market trading and is now down almost 13 percent. Though the move came as a surprise to most, Symantec said the decision wasn't precipitated by any event or impropriety. It seems Symantec simply felt Bennett wasn't the right person to drive the company's growth and to hit the goals it set out for itself.

"We recognize Steve's contributions to Symantec, including developing and leading a series of successful initiatives focused on organizational realignment, cost reduction and process effectiveness. These changes have helped establish a solid foundation for Symantec's future, and we remain committed to our previously announced greater-than 5 percent organic revenue growth and better-than 30 percent non-GAAP operating margin targets by FY17," Symantec chairman Daniel Schulman said in a statement . "Our priority is now to identify a leader who can leverage our company's assets and leadership team to drive the next stage of Symantec's product innovation and growth."

Symantec develops security software, including its popular Norton line of products. For a long time, Norton had a negative reputation among power users for its slow performance, bloat, and in some cases, ineffectiveness. However, Symantec completely rewrote the program in 2009 with a focus on speed and performance. Since then, Norton Internet Security has consistently scored high marks in Maximum PC's annual antivirus roundups.

The turnaround effort makes Bennett's firing even more surprising and casts a shadow of uncertainty over future versions of Norton. However, interim CEO Michael Brown feels confident the company can continue on without skipping a beat.

"With recent key hires, we have a leadership team in place that is capable of accelerating our growth and I look forward to working closely with them to help execute the next phase of the company's transformation plan," Brown said. "The need for protecting and managing your information has never been stronger, and we must act aggressively to capture a growing share of this market. By concentrating on product innovation and growth initiatives, we aim to leverage Symantec's tremendous assets across both consumer and enterprise applications to enhance our position as a market leader."

Brown has been with Symantec ever since the company's merger with VERITAS Software in July 2005. Prior to that, he was the CEO of Quantum Corporation, where he grew revenues from $3 billion to $6 billion.

Image Credit: Flickr (Kazuhisa OTSUBO)

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