Postscript: Symantec to See Major Shift in Leadership 2.0

Enrique Salem, a seasoned Symantec Corp. executive whose brief tenure as chief operating officer involved a high-profile channel flap, will take over as president and chief executive officer at the software giant on April 4. John Thompson will retire from the CEO job on that date, but will remain chairman of the board.

Thompson, 59, positioned the move as part of a two-year succession plan that included promoting Salem to COO in January 2008. In a statement announcing the management moves in mid-November, Thompson said, "Through that [succession planning] process, Enrique emerged as the right person to lead the company, and I am confident in his ability to continue to drive the success of our team."

Microsoft and Symantec share many channel partners. According to Symantec, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company provides more Windows solutions than any vendor except Microsoft.

In his 10 years of heading Symantec, Thompson has overseen the company's transition from a consumer software publisher to a major player in Internet security, data protection and storage management, accompanied by a tenfold increase in revenues.

Enrique Salem (left) is poised to take over as president and CEO of Symantec Corp. in April when John Thompson (right) retires from the CEO job.

Salem, 43, has experienced both phases of Symantec, having been at companies acquired by Symantec on two occasions. He first joined Symantec when the company acquired Peter Norton Computing Inc. After leaving Symantec in 1999, Salem held senior management positions at Ask Jeeves Inc. and Oblix Inc. before taking the CEO post at Brightmail Inc., an anti-spam technology company that was purchased by Symantec in June 2004.

In addition to serving as COO, Salem has held several other senior executive positions at Symantec. He was senior vice president of the security products and solutions group, group president of the consumer business unit and group president of worldwide sales and marketing.

According to statements from Symantec, Salem's biggest accomplishments in the COO role have been directing research and development spending to enhance integration across Symantec's diverse product portfolio and establishing common metrics to improve execution and drive results. Both steps are critical for a company that typically spends $1 billion on three to six acquisitions per year.

Prior to the succession announcement, Symantec featured Salem as the senior executive at Symantec's October PartnerEngage conference (see "Is It Time to Take Another Look at Symantec?" December 2008). Salem's comments at the conference matched the overarching theme of conference partners being Symantec's "heartbeat." He stated at that time that one of his goals is to help partners sell, profitably, as many Symantec products as possible.

He ran into some trouble in June 2008, when he told investors that Symantec would give its 700 to 900 largest customers the choice of either dealing directly with Symantec or working through the channel. While Salem and some close Symantec partners described the comments as simply a restatement of an uncontroversial existing practice, the declaration ignited a fierce debate in the channel over Symantec's commitment to the partner model.

Many industry observers are watching both Salem and Thompson closely for more insights into their channel attitudes as the executives handle the decision of replacing-or not replacing-worldwide channel chief Julie Parrish, who left recently to take a similar role at NetApp.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.