Symantec laying groundwork for breakup

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Symantec laying groundwork for breakup

Symantec said on Thursday that the company is eliminating its chief operating officer position, jettisoning the role while executives lay the groundwork for breaking the company up.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said COO Stephen Gillett would temporarily remain in a non-executive capacity for a transitional period.

Gillett was named Symantec COO in December 2012 and had been responsible for corporate strategy, business segment management and other parts of the company's communications, sales and marketing operations.

He served as a member of the Symantec Board of Directors from January to December 2012. Prior to joining Symantec, Gillett was executive vice president at Best Buy where he oversaw the company's technology and e-commerce operations. Gillett also served as vice president of Digital Ventures and chief information officer at Starbucks.

Symantec announced in October that it would split into two publicly traded companies and executives said that the transition, which is expected to take a full year, would involve organisational changes.

In a call with financial analysts, the company said the split would cost the company US$220 million and indicated that layoffs would impact about 10 percent of the workforce. The layoffs will enable Symantec to become a "leaner and more efficient organisation," said Thomas Seifert, executive vice president and CFO of Symantec, adding that the cost savings would also enable the company to invest in further research and development activities.

Gillett continued to serve in the COO role following the departure of Steve Bennett, who was fired a year after overhauling the company's sales operations. In an interview with CRN, Gillett said the termination came as a surprise to all the senior executives, but added that the company would focus on bringing new products to market under interim and now current CEO Michael Brown.

In an interview in October, Gillett told CRN US that the company's channel and product strategy would not change while it splits into separate security and information management organisations. He said the channel program would remain through the end of 2015.

Symantec partners are generally pleased with Symantec executives' plan to break the company up. Despite a partner summit following the announcement in which executives urged partners to "stay the course," partners say what happens to the company when the breakup is complete at the end of next year is anyone's guess. Financial experts said one of the two new companies could be an acquisition target and is being eyed by private equity firms.

The channel program at both newly created companies will likely undergo revisions, said David Sockol, president and CEO of security consulting firm Emagined Security. Sockol and other Symatnec partners said that the breakup is an acknowledgement that the sale of data management software and appliances is different than that of data security and threat detection software.

"Symantec has been on a long roller coaster ride but with the split of the two companies I see nothing but the potential for it to move upward over the long haul," Sockol said.

This article originally appeared at crn.com

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