While Sun Microsystems went to great efforts to portray Scott McNealy's stepping down from the CEO role as a natural transition and part of a well-thought out succession plan, it was clearly not something the company had chance to chat to its printers about.
I unexpectedly met with McNealy this week -- I'm visiting Washington DC as Sun's guest while it spruiks its data management vision -- when he made a brief appearance for the assembled rag-bag of international journalists.
Anticipating our likely line of questioning, his opening remark was: "I still work here." And then, before he handed out his business card, he scribbled out the section which read 'CEO':
However long in planning, the change appears to be something that McNealy relishes. "I love my new job," he said. "I was up late watching all of the hockey and I felt absolutely no guilt."
He also hinted at a more hands-off approach. "The nice thing about being chairman is I only identify problems. The rest of the team have to solve them."
Of course, there's not much likelihood that the ponytailed Jonathan Schwartz, who took over the role of CEO, is actually going to outstrip McNealy in terms of public visibility anytime soon.
Just as Bill Gates' fame continues to eclipse that of actual Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer -- monkey videos aside -- McNealy is such an identifiable element of the company, albeit something of a loose cannon, that he's still going to get reeled out for every major corporate presentation -- at least until Sun restores its profitability levels to a point Wall Street is comfortable with.
At that point McNealy himself has a clear vision of what will happen: "We'll get front page, Jonathan will be a whizz-kid, and all of the kids out of business school will be wearing ponytails."