Claflin to step down as 3Com CEO

3Com Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Claflin will retire as soon as the networking technology vendor finds a replacement for him, the Marlborough, Massachusetts, company said Wednesday.

Claflin is participating in the search for his replacement, along with a committee of independent directors of the company’s board. After a new leader is chosen, he will stay on as a senior advisor for six months to help ensure a smooth transition, according to a press release.

Under Claflin, “3Com developed a strategy to become a leading global provider of secure converged networking solutions,” said Eric Benhamou, Chairman of 3Com, in a statement. “Moving forward, the 3Com Board intends to recruit a CEO who can build on the positive trends of the past few quarters as we continue to execute our strategy and drive 3Com toward profitable growth.”

Claflin joined 3Com as president and COO in 1998, and took over as president and CEO in 2001. Over the last four years, 3Com has operated in the red, but its losses shrank from US$349 million in its fiscal year 2004 to around $195 million in 2005. Recently, 3Com posted a loss of $11 million for its second fiscal quarter, which ended in December — compared to a $43 million loss in the previous quarter. Claflin has stated that he expects the company to be profitable by 2007.

Claflin leaves a company much changed from the one he took over from former CEO Benhamou. He was largely behind 3Com’s pull-out of the large-enterprise switching and routing market in 2000. He oversaw the divestment of its carrier business CommWorks and the company’s post dot-com-crash transformation into a small-and-midsize-business- and consumer-focused networking company, with such products as broadband gear and the Audrey Internet radio appliance.

He also helped engineer the company’s more recent efforts to re-establish its large-enterprise market presence. In 2003, 3Com established a joint venture with Chinese networking giant Huawei, in which 3Com co-develops and rebrands high-end WAN routers and LAN switches to sell to U.S. enterprises, taking advantage of Huawei’s low-cost engineering and manufacturing resources. More recently, 3Com acquired TippingPoint Technologies, a well-regarded intrusion prevention systems startup.

Claflin’s successor will also assume the chairmanship of the Huawei-3Com joint venture.

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