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Messman pays the price for stale financial results

Novell has rung the changes on its management team, with president and chief operating officer Ron Hovsepian stepping up to the CEO role last month.

Novell has rung the changes on its management team, with president and chief operating officer Ron Hovsepian stepping up to the CEO role last month.

He has replaced Jack Messman, who was praised by Novell’s board for pushing the company into the open-source market but was seen to be not delivering the financial results the company wanted.

As well as Messman, chief financial officer Joseph Tibbets is also standing down, to be replaced by Novell’s current vice president of finance, Dana Russell, on an interim basis.

Thomas Plaskett, who has been a Novell director since 2002, has been elected non-executive chairman of the board.

Hovsepian, who is extremely well regarded both within Novell and outside, will be tasked with growing the firm’s Linux business. While Messman had invested in that business with the acquisition of Linux vendor SuSe Linux in 2003, the results have so far been disappointing with Linux sales lagging behind rivals such as Red Hat.

“The Board concluded that a management change would be the best way to accelerate the execution of our growth strategy and build value for shareholders,” Plaskett said in a statement.

“Ron is the ideal choice to lead the company as we continue with our transition to Linux-based products and identity and resource management and leverage our unique support of mixed source environments,” the statement went on to add.

Hovsepian indicated in the same statement that he will not change strategy, but rather will focus more on execution of it: “Going forward, we will maintain a sharp focus on meeting customer demand and delivering value through Linux-based, enterprise-wide solutions and identity and resource management products.”

“We have innovative technology, a strong roster of customers and business partners and an extremely talented group of employees. I look forward to continuing to work closely with our business partners and customers,” he added.

Messman joined Novell in 2001, following its US$266million capture of consulting firm Cambridge Technology Partners, where he was chief executive officer. He replaced one of the IT industry’s best-known names, Eric Schmidt, as CEO.

Schmidt, highly regarded for his work on the Java programming language at Sun Microsystems, had been seen as failing to do enough to push the company away from its dependency on its NetWare operating system, which has lost out in the server market to Linux and Microsoft’s Windows platforms.

That same problem seems to have dogged his successor.
In an online advisory, analyst firm Gartner said that while Messman had done an “excellent job” in keeping Novell in solid financial health and pushing through the SuSe acquisition, he had failed to deliver financial growth and capitalise on that acquisition.”

“Gartner believes that Hovsepian has the skills to move Novell forward and that it will make an excellent replacement for Messman,” it said.

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