Update: Szulik resigns at Red Hat; former Delta exec tapped as CEO
Szulik will remain as chairman; says he's giving up full-time jobs due to family health issues
James Whitehurst, formerly the chief operating officer at Delta Air Lines Inc., will take on Szulik's leadership positions and a seat on the board starting in the new year. Szulik will step down as president and CEO, but remain as chairman of the board.
Szulik had been Red Hat's CEO for the past eight years and is one of the most prominent business executives in the open-source world.During a conference call on Thursday, Szulik said he was leaving his post because of family health reasons. In a blog posting on Red Hat's Web site, he expressed gratitude for having been part of a company that propelled open-source software into the mainstream.
"For many years, my face has been pressed up against the windshield trying to look into the future. Learning and adapting to an evolving Red Hat community, culture and marketplace," he wrote. "I take pride when customers and industry types comment to me that the people of Red Hat are 'different.' ... Through our actions, the open-source community and the people of Red Hat are defining a modern economic relationship between developer and customer."
Szulik also thanked Red Hat workers for their "sacrifices, contributions and camaraderie."
Red Hat said that its board had been searching for a new CEO for a while, which indicates that there is no ill will involved in the leadership change, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT Inc. in Hayward, Calif.
The fact that Red Hat chose an operations expert to lead the organization offers some insight into the company, King said. "Usually you bring an operations expert in if you feel that you might have the right strategy and the right people and products but you need to get the organization moving in a more functional, logically sound manner," he said.
King expects Szulik to still play a key role as Red Hat's chairman. He said that because Whitehurst is new to the Linux community, the company likely will continue to rely on Szulik to communicate with the industry. "It's almost like a foreign policy issue, if you will, that companies need to deal with in order to deal effectively with the Linux community," King said.
Whitehurst joins Red Hat as the company works through a transition aimed at helping it compete better with software companies like Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. The company is best known for its Linux server distribution, but that market is getting increasingly crowded. As a result, Red Hat is trying to reach into other areas and beef up existing offerings, such as its services.
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