Symantec CEO John Thompson to step down

Symantec CEO John Thompson has announced his retirement.

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Symantec CEO John Thompson has announced his retirement.

Thompson, 59, has led the security vendor for the past decade. He will be replaced by Enrique Salem, the company's chief operating officer, from 4 April, 2009.

During his tenure, Thompson built Symantec from a consumer desktop software vendor, best known for its Norton products, into a leading enterprise software provider. The company aggressively acquired new software companies including its most high-profile purchase: the 2005 US$10.5 billion acquisition of enterprise storage software vendor Veritas.

"He grew it from what was essentially a desktop software vendor to arguably the most important security pure-play," said Andrew Jaquith, a senior analyst with Forrester Research who formerly worked for Symantec under Thompson's leadership. "He's made a lot of gutsy calls; buying Veritas was an amazingly gutsy call, and it was the right one."

Investors might disagree with that assessment. Symantec's stock [SYMC] dropped on news of the Veritas merger four years ago and has never returned to its pre-acquisition highs.

"I've always believed that 10 years was long enough to sit in this role," Thompson said in a call with financial analysts Monday.

In April, Thompson will remain as chairman of Symantec's board of directors, but in an interview following the call he said his immediate retirement plans involve spending "a lot more time" in Hawaii.

A supporter of President-elect Barack Obama, Thompson has been considered a possible appointee to the incoming Obama administration. Thompson said he has had no conversations with the Obama camp and has no plans to work in Washington.

Salem, 43, had been groomed for the post since Symantec acquired his antispam company, Brightmail, in 2004. He headed Symantec's consumer business and then the worldwide salesforce before being promoted to COO in January of this year.

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