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Red Hat names new Whitehurst CEO; Szulik stays chairman

Red Hat on Thursday named former Delta Airlines executive James Whitehurst CEO effective Jan. 1.

Red Hat on Thursday named former Delta Airlines executive James Whitehurst CEO effective Jan. 1. Current chief Matthew Szulik continues as chairman.

Whitehurst was most recently the chief operating officer at Delta Airlines and helped navigate the airline's bankruptcy restructuring. Whitehurst joined Delta in 2002. In a statement, Red Hat said Whitehurst will bring "a combination of strategic insight and operational excellence" to the company.

My question: But does Whitehurst know anything about Linux or the open source community? My hunch: Red Hat is looking to Szulik to be the ambassador to the open source community as Whitehurst exercises his marketing chops to pitch the company's software to big enterprises.

Red Hat said it chose Whitehurst after an extensive search, indicating that Szulik was looking to step out of the day-to-day morass.

In the meantime, it appears Whitehurst is taking the handoff just as Red Hat's financials continue to shine. The company also reported its fiscal third quarter results ended Nov. 30. Net income for the quarter was $20.3 million, or 10 cents a share, on revenue of $135.4 million. Revenue was up 28 percent from a year ago. Excluding charges, Red Hat reported earnings of 19 cents a share, a penny ahead of Wall Street estimates.

Third quarter subscription revenue was up 30 percent from a year ago and 6 percent from the second quarter.