All change: NetApp CEO steps down in executive shake up

Weeks after Tom Georgens announced that 500 jobs were to be cut, NetApp's CEO has started the ball rolling in a rather unorthodox fashion

NetApp is shaking up its executive suite, with CEO Tom Georgens stepping down after six years at the helm of the storage vendor, effective immediately.

Both NetApp and Georgens have remained tight lipped about the exact reason for the departure; however, the announcement comes just weeks after NetApp’s quarterly earnings release, which Georgens admitted was not up to par.

Revenue was down 6.6% year-on-year, while net income fell a stonking 32%. At the time of the earnings release, the now former-CEO revealed plans to axe a further 500 jobs, as part of a major restructuring programme. Two years prior, NetApp culled 900 employees – a quarter of its workforce.

NetApp has found itself between a rock and a hard place, with EMC squeezing it from the top and an array (pun intended) of innovators nipping at its heels from the bottom.

George Kurian, formerly the executive vice president for product operations, was named interim CEO. Kurian migrated from Cisco in 2011 and has overseen several large-scale projects in that time. While the board of directors seemed keen to stress the word ‘interim’, Kurian’s statement gave no indication that he saw himself as an intermezzo.

“I am honored to lead NetApp during this time of transition,” said Mr. Kurian. “I look forward to engaging with the entire NetApp community as we execute our strategic plan and key investment areas of accelerating clustered Data ONTAP adoption, regaining traction in the channel, and increasing our sales capacity. We are committed to delivering improved growth and financial performance and remain confident in the strength of our technology and hybrid cloud strategy.”

Taking on the now vacant role of chairman of the board, is Mike Nevens. Formerly a partner of McKinsey & Company, Nevens is NetApp's lead independent director.

“While we intend to conduct a CEO search, we have the utmost confidence in George's ability to lead the company, given his deep knowledge of NetApp and support from a strong executive team," said Nevens. “George has deep relationships with customers and partners globally and is committed to strengthening those relationships going forward.”

NetApp stock, which has declined more than 20% in 2015, fell as much as 1.2% during Monday trading, eventually settling around the $33 mark in after-hours.

While many employees will be mentally preparing to collect their pink slips, it’s not entirely one-way traffic. Earlier this week, NetApp announced the appointment of former Brocade channel chief Bill Lipsin as vice president of Worldwide Channel Sales.

Reporting to Thomas Stanley, senior vice president, Global Partner Sales and Alliances, Lipsin will be responsible for rolling out several new investments to ‘improve partner profitability and increase NetApp marketing and partner engagement’. The firm said that the investments include doubling of global partner marketing resources as well as expanded demand- and lead-generation initiatives.

"This is a pivotal year for NetApp. As a company we will need to focus on optimizing our channel visibility to demonstrate to our partners the strength of our commitment," Lipsin said in a canned statement. "Our partners want to see NetApp succeed and they want to succeed with us. I'm excited to join NetApp at this time in its evolution and look forward to helping our partners embrace the growth opportunities in front of us as we lead the customer transition to the hybrid cloud."

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