David Southworth, chief executive at reseller Skillsgroup, is preparing to sell the Acuma enterprise and solutions division to its management before stepping down.
Acuma, an enterprise IT consultancy, posted turnover of £80.5m for the year ended 30 November 1999, up from £62.6m in 1998. But operating profit plunged from £4.1m to £3.2m as a result of the millennium slowdown.
At the company's annual general meeting on Friday, Southworth delivered a trading update and said he will step down as chief executive this year, but he will remain as temporary chairman.
Southworth indicated the board had agreed to support the management buy-out (MBO) of Acuma, for an undisclosed sum, because it will allow the group "a much sharper focus".
David Ince, managing director of Acuma, was not available for comment because he was meeting staff to discuss the MBO, according to a company representative.
Southworth said he had decided to step down by 1 December because it would be "appropriate for new leaders to take Skillsgroup into its next stage of development". The search for a new chief executive and deputy chairman has already begun.
His announcement drew mixed reactions from analysts. Analyst Richard Holway said Southworth's achievements had been under-reported. "He had a very difficult job transforming a reseller/distributor into an IT services group. Hardly any other company managed it. Skillsgroup seems well on its way."
However, another analyst said: "He never accepted any of the blame for the company's underperformance. His departure will be welcome."
Southworth also revealed that QA Training is trading ahead of expectations, QA Myriad is meeting its targets, Pontis is gaining momentum and Acuma is seeing a return of its project-based business. But Southworth added that the first-quarter period will still be hit by the mixed start to the year and its a £10m investment in e-business projects (CRN, 9 February).
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