Movers and shakers 2007: Who left and why

2007 saw more key executives leaving their posts than those joining companies. We take a look at who left their hot seats last year and why.

2007 saw more key executives leaving their posts than those joining companies.

Most of these movements were due to profit slumps and failed promises, leading to irate shareholders demanding a management shakeup. And some of the executives simply had enough of the rat race, and had set their sights on retirement plans, instead.

We take a look at who left their hot seats in 2007 and why.

Conroy takes over from Coonan
Following the November election, Stephen Conroy took over from Helen Coonan in the communications hotseat albeit with a different name -- in came Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, out went Coonan's old title of Minister for Communications, IT and the Arts.

Now Conroy has the unenviable task of turning his election pledges -- including Web content filtering, computers for schools and a fibre-to-the-node network -- into reality.

Michael Dell back as CEO
Dell founder Michael Dell returned to the PC company in February 2007 as CEO, after Kevin Rollins resigned from the post.

The company had a bad year in 2006, which saw Dell lose its lead position in the PC market to Hewlett-Packard.

A Dell spokesperson said the board was involved in Rollins' decision to resign, though he did not specify whether Rollins was asked to leave.

IDC analyst Richard Shim said of Rollins' leaving that the company's revenue slump was a likely reason for Dell's return to his CEO post.

"It's surprising. Rollins had the confidence of [Michael] Dell, but when you look at the numbers you can see why" Dell has retaken the helm, said Shim. "They have been suffering from a corporate market slump, and the usual bag of tricks -- leveraging the supply chain and their economies of scale -- haven't worked."

Yahoo's reorganisation: Farzad Nazem, Terry Semel, Susan Decker and Jerry Yang
Yahoo CTO Farzad Nazem resigned in June last year, while the company was going through a reorganisation in a bid to compete with its key competitors, such as Google.

Yahoo had struggled in the shadow of Google, and the former's profits slid 11 percent in the first quarter of 2007 from the previous year.

Before Nazem's departure, Yahoo also replaced its then-COO Dan Rosensweig and head of media and entertainment, Lloyd Braun.

Nazem said in a blog entry that after 26 years spent in "this fast-paced technology industry", he decided "slow down".

At the same time, Yahoo CEO Terry Semel also stepped down, having spent six years at the helm, and handed the job over to the company's co-founder, Jerry Yang.

Semel had been criticised in a shareholder meeting the week before, where his US$77 million salary was protested in light of the company's dismal stock price and performance against Google in search and search advertising.

Former CFO Susan Decker was named president in the shakeup.

"This is the right thing to do for Yahoo and the right time to do it," Semel told analysts and media in a conference call. Yang and Decker will be an "unbeatable team", added Semel, noting that Decker is a "strategic powerhouse" and a "financial wizard" and "one of the best business people around".

Sprint's Gary Forsee
2007 was a year Sprint struggled to get through. Amid revenue losses and missed targets, Sprint took the opportunity during its third quarter report to dish out some bad news and announce its CEO Gary Forsee, would be out.

The announcement in October saw Sprint suffering a net loss of some 337,000 billed subscribers -- amongst other setbacks -- regarded to be a result of Forsee's risky decisions.

One of those analysts pinpointed was Sprint's merger with Nextel. UBS analyst John Hodulik said one of the failures of that was Sprint not succeeding in moving over 15 million Nextel customers onto its own network, forcing Sprint to shell out to support two networks, customer service teams and billing systems.

Eben Moglen leaves the Free Software Foundation
Eben Moglen, having served seven years as director of the Free Software Foundation, left in April 2007 because drafting the General Public License version 3 (GPLv3) had taken its toll on his professional and personal lives, he said.

Moglen added in a blog post that his leaving was at the most "appropriate" and least "disruptive" time, since the drafting of the open source licensing model was winding down.

The founder and chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center was looking to concentrate more on writing and on his professorship of law at Columbia University, he said in his blog.

Shai Agassi looks to alternative energy
Billed as a "rising star", Shai Agassi's resignation came as a surprise.

The then-president of SAP's product and technology group was viewed as a potential successor to current CEO, Henning Kagermann. SAP founder Hasso Plattner had also previously noted that he favored Agassi over fellow contender, Leo Apotheker.

However, Apotheker gained ground over Agassi due to his long tenure with the company and responsibility over a substantially larger portion of it, according to sources.

Furthermore, Kagermann's term was extended until May 2009, even though it was previously set to expire in end-2007.

Plattner told reporters that the decision to extend Kagermann's contract did not sit well with Agassi, who wanted to ascend to the CEO seat on a faster track.

Moving forward, Agassi may be looking to join alternative energy. In October 2007, he founded a company named Project Better Place, which focuses on green transportation via electric cars as an alternative to those running on fossil fuel.

Debian Linux founder joins Sun Microsystems
Ian Murdock, who founded the Debian version of Linux -- which spawned popular distributions such as Ubuntu -- joined Sun in March 2007 as its chief operating platforms officer.

Murdock's hire was part of an effort by Sun to repackage its Solaris OS with some of the trappings of Linux that have made the latter so popular.

One of those proponents is called Project Indiana, which Murdock spearheads. Sun hopes repackaging its OpenSolaris OS into a distribution will help win over developers from the large and growing Linux pool.

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