The sudden departure of Delbert Yocam, Inprise?s chairman and chief executive, has left the company in search of a new boss - and a new identity.
Inprise, which was known as Borland until last year, also said that Kathleen Fisher, the firm?s chief financial officer was leaving for undisclosed reasons. Yocam will be temporarily replaced by a "management committee" consisting of James Weil, John Floisand, Jay Leite and Hobart Birmingham.
A spokesman said: "[Yocam] submitted his resignation yesterday [Wednesday] and the board has accepted it."
But the announcement saw Inprise?s shares plummet 15.3 per cent to close at an all time low of $3.28 on Thursday, and caught most observers by surprise.
Dave Kelly, vice president of application strategies at the Hurwitz Group, said: "There were no indications that I am aware of that this was going to happen. On the other hand, the stock price has tumbled over the last few months and it has had trouble finding the partners it needed."
While Yocam had succeeded in turning the company around financially during his two year tenure, he had been criticised for alienating Borland?s core followers in the application development community.
Kelly explained: "There was a core contingent of loyal Borland developers, and as [Borland] changed into Inprise these developers essentially felt abandoned."
Borland was founded in 1984 by the flamboyant French mathematician, Philippe Kahn, and was considered one of Microsoft?s chief competitors in the desktop languages and database space for a few years.
But after a number of tactical mistakes in the early 1990s, including a late switch from MS-Dos to Windows, Kahn left the company in 1994 to found Starfish Software.
Yocam was appointed in November, 1996, and restructured the firm in February, 1997, before acquiring Visigenic and its Visibroker object request broker. In June 1998, Yocam changed its name to Inprise, which was meant to symbolise its transformation into an enterprise software company.
But that transformation has proved more difficult than expected.
In an embarrassing U turn in January, Inprise announced the return of the Borland name, with the addition of a fashionable ?dot com?. The organisation was also split up into two divisions - Inprise and Borland.com, with the latter catering to the firm?s traditional software developer base.
And a further return to its development tools roots may now be in the cards. A former high ranking Borland executive said that since Kahn had left, Borland?s share price had fallen dramatically. Kahn is known to favour a return to Borland?s roots.
But Hurwitz?s Kelly believed that Inprise could still succeed in winning over enterprise customers and that Yocam may not have been the right man to complete the transition. "I wouldn?t say [Yocam] failed, but this kind of transition is terribly hard," he said.
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