Mandrakesoft rocked by executive loss

Mandrakesoft, the biggest distributor of Linux in the US retail sector, has lost its chief executive together with up to two dozen key staff
Written by Peter Galli, Contributor

Mandrakesoft, which produces the popular Mandrake Linux distribution, confirmed this morning that chief executive Henri Poole and other management officials have left the company.

Responding to rumours that the company was set to lay off its Linux desktop distribution team, Chairman and new chief executive Jacques Le Marois said in a statement issued in Paris that "there is absolutely no foundation in the rumour that we are planning to lay off our development team, who represent a crucial asset for Mandrakesoft, especially in light of our refocusing on our core Linux values."

However, Le Marois did acknowledge that there had been a change in senior management. "Former chief executive Henri Poole and I agreed on the need for a management change as a result of a divergence of views regarding the company's strategic outlook," he said.

Poole's vision had been to establish Mandrakesoft in the e-learning and e-support arenas and not focus specifically on Linux.

"My view is that the source of our success and the very essence of our company is the Linux Madrake operating system, and that all our online services such as MandrakeExpert and MandrakeCampus should be geared to support it and bring value to our user community," Le Marois said.

Sources close to the company said a total of 25 staff had left, including its president, chief technology officer, chief investment officer, and a number of engineers and staff from the e-services strategy group -- many of whom were based in the US. Mandrakesoft now employs 125 people in its offices in the California city of Pasadena, as well as in Montreal, London, Germany and Paris.

Mandrake's public relations firm would confirm only that there had been a management shuffle and that Poole had left. It would not disclose how many jobs had been lost, but said no further staff reductions were anticipated.

The news follows last week's announcement that Eazel, one of the companies developing a friendly graphical user interface and file system for the Linux desktop, has closed its doors after failing to raise a second round of financing.

There has also been considerable speculation about Mandrake's finances and future financing in recent weeks. Le Marois said the recent management changes and refocus on its core distribution and related online and offline services had allowed it to make "major savings, and we are now on course to break even within a few months."

The company is also continuing with plans for an Initial Public Offering in the next few months. And it recently announced the availability of the Linux Mandrake 8.0 operating system, with "hundreds of thousands of downloads of this," Le Marois said.

The upcoming release of MandrakeStore, its online store, would further create "a solid new revenue stream," Le Marois said. "We've already pre-sold thousands of PowerPack Editions online, and there are currently more than 35,000 registered users on MandrakeExpert and MandrakeCampus, which represents massive revenue potential for us going forward. A paying user registration system will also be introduced shortly, representing another revenue source for the company."

Retail sales of Mandrake Linux are also doing well in the US, he added. Figures recently released by PC Data and LinuxGram showed Mandrake Linux heading the list of US retail Linux sales in the first quarter of this year.

Those figures showed that Mandrake Linux represented 33.8 percent of Linux retail sales in the quarter, with Red Hat Linux at 30.7 percent, SuSE at 23.8 percent, FreeBSD at 5.6 percent, Caldera at 2.5 percent, Corel with 2.3 percent and Turbolinux at 1.2 percent.

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