BEA departures continue

BEA Systems Inc. continues to see an exodus of high-level executives, with chief marketing officer Tod Nielsen exiting this week.

His departure, to pursue other interests, follows the exits of CTO Scott Ditezen, who left two weeks ago, and chief architect Adam Bosworth, who left in July. Bosworth joined Google and Ditezen also departed to pursue other interests, according to BEA. Also departing two weeks ago was marketing executive Rick Jackson, who went to Borland.

Despite these high-profile exits from the company, BEA’s Kevin Faulkner, vice-president of investor relations, remains firm that the company is on the right footing, noting that the company’s positive cash flow in the first half of this year was US$137 million, as opposed to US$88 million in the first half of last year.

“We have a lot of good people here working on our…product vision, and (who) think that focus is something important — and focus is something that our customers want to see,” Faulkner said.

Asked why there have been so many departures, Faulkner said officials who left had different priorities than what was set at a recent product leadership team meeting. Those priorities are:

– to continue investing in the BEA platform itself;

– to continue investing in features and functionality for the Integration and Portal products;

– to build a set of features in the application server specific to telecommunications companies, especially for voice over IP;

– and to ship version 9.0 of BEA WebLogic Platform.

BEA furnished a copy of Bosworth’s e-mail to BEA that discussed his departure.

“It is with profoundly mixed emotions that I send this mail. I am leaving BEA and going to Google,” Bosworth wrote.

“I am terribly sorry to leave because of the people I’ve had the privilege of working with here at BEA. You are extraordinary people. Together we shared a vision, bringing enterprise applications to millions of developers, and you made it real,” Bosworth said.

“But as some of you know from my early Crossgain days when Rod Chavez and David Bao and Gary Burd and Ken Ong and I were first setting out to build Crossgain in early 2000, my heart has always heard the siren’s song of consumer services,” said Bosworth, in explaining his decision to go to an online consumer services venture such as Google.

Additionally, the company in May revealed that Alan Fudge, senior vice-president of sales for the Americas, had left the company, and that Olivier Helleboid, executive vice-president in charge of BEA’s product group, had been moved to a new role directing BEA’s long-term strategy.

Despite BEA’s own positive prognosis, an analyst did not believe the exits bode well for the company.

“I have to admit it doesn’t look good,” said Shawn Willett, principal analyst at Current Analysis, in an e-mail response to questions. “The company’s financials, however, are not that bad right now, and don’t warrant any kind of mass exodus. The company’s core market, application severs, (is) just stagnating, and the new areas it is delving into have not yet borne fruit in terms of high growth. My guess is that there is a convergence of factors: stagnant growth, personal reasons, management changes that some don’t like, et cetera….Again, the net effect is that it doesn’t look good right now.”

As a side note on the departures of Bosworth and Ditezen, BEA featured these two officials as subjects of bobblehead souvenir dolls the company gave to attendees at the BEA eWorld show in Orlando in March 2003. A third bobblehead doll subject, Alfred Chuang, is still at the company as founder, chairman, and CEO.

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