Informix chief executive Phil White is set to surrender some of his management responsibilities to a right hand man in the wake of the company?s $140 million losses, for which he was being personally blamed by shareholders last week.
Last Thursday the database supplier reported a first quarter loss of $140.1 million on revenues of $133.7 million. Investors were stunned by the scale of the losses, which far exceeded the worst predictions of Wall Street analysts, with many calling for White to resign.
"How do we force Phil out of his job now?" demanded one angry shareholder on an investors' bulletin board. "Our dollars have been lost by him personally and he needs to be accountable."
White?s response to such criticism has been to raise the possibility of splitting some of his management responsibilities. At present, he holds the three senior offices of chief executive, president and chairman of the board at Informix.
"Whoever was responsible for allowing him as president and chief executive to take the chairman of the board position is at fault here," commented one investor.
In an interview with the 'San Francisco Chronicle' following Thursday?s results, White recalled that Oracle?s Larry Ellison was in a similar position when it ran into deep financial problems in the early 1990s. "He had all the titles and they had a problem," said White. "I?ve got all the titles and we had a problem."
Ellison?s solution was to recruit new senior management to the upper echelons of the company in the shape of former chairman Jim Abrahamson and current president Ray Lane. White said he was now thinking in terms of bringing in "more operational management".
Silicon Valley gossip made Novell president Jim Marengi a front runner for any post at Informix. Marengi had hoped to take over as chief executive of Novell, but was passed over in favour of Sun?s former chief technology officer Eric Schmidt. He has made no public comment on whether he intends to remain with Novell in the long term, but is widely assumed to be job hunting.
White - who is proud of being named CEO of the Year on several occasions - put no timescale on making a decision. But he is due to face shareholders at a company meeting later this month. At that meeting, he will almost certainly face calls to resign, although these seem unlikely to succeed.
"I would be happy if Phil was not the chairman of the board and the CEO," said one investor. "Unfortunately since Phil is both and the president, it will be difficult to fire him. There would have to be a large and organised shareholder rebellion for this to happen."
But others are not so sure. "If institutional investors and other large shareholders are pissed, you can be sure a noose is going to be made," noted another investor.
Informix?s chief financial officer Alan Henricks resigned on Thursday prior to the release of the first quarter results. White, in common with other Informix executives, has been named in a series of class action lawsuits alleging insider trading and share price manipulation.
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