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Citrix CEO departs as EUC industry shakeup continues

Mark Templeton's tenure as Citrix CEO has abruptly come to an end, leaving Citrix users to wonder what's in store for the company's future.

Mark Templeton's time as Citrix CEO has officially come to an end, and an interim leader with an eye for financials is now at the helm.

Citrix's board of directors unanimously appointed Robert Calderoni interim president and CEO, effective immediately. Calderoni is an accounting and finance executive who has served as Citrix's executive chairman for just over a year. Templeton will serve in an advisory role through the end of the year.

Citrix had previously said Templeton would stay on until the company found a successor. The sudden change suggests that activist investor Elliott Management Corp. is getting more aggressive in its efforts to reshape Citrix, said Bob Egan, founder of the Sepharim Research Group, an IT analysis firm in Falmouth, Mass.

"They're very worried about competition from VMware," Egan said. "The [board of directors], spurred on by Elliott, wanted to move faster. And Mark didn't."

By improving its desktop virtualization products and acquiring AirWatch, VMware has cemented its status as a leader in the end-user computing (EUC) market where Citrix built its business. But Citrix has not challenged VMware on its home turf, Egan said.

"VMware has really stood up a pretty compelling solution at the edge," he said. "Citrix still hasn't figured out that move into the data center."

Templeton's departure follows Dell's plans to acquire EMC and VMware. Citrix was reported to be in talks with Dell about a buyout earlier this year. When that didn't happen, Citrix reportedly reverted to the Elliott-approved plan of selling off product lines that aren't core to its business, such as GoToMeeting.

Time for new blood at Citrix

Some Citrix shops see the CEO change as a good step for the company.

They're very worried about competition from VMware. The [board of directors], spurred on by Elliott, wanted to move faster. And Mark didn't.
Bob EganFounder of the Sepharim Research Group

"Unfortunately, the last six to seven years under [Templeton's] leadership, the company vision lost its focus a bit," said Hector Cortez, an architect at global logistics company Neovia Logistics Services LLC. "Citrix now needs to realign, sell off, and acquire the correct companies to stay competitive and gain the traction it lost."

Citrix shareholders responded positively to Calderoni's appointment with stock gains this week, but IT pros who respect Templeton and the company he led are nervous about a pure-bred financial executive at the helm.

Some people worry that a new CEO -- especially one focused on financial gain for shareholders -- will entertain the idea of an acquisition that results in changes to the products they've come to know and love, such as Netscaler, Citrix Provisioning Services, XenDesktop and XenApp.

"That makes me really nervous," said Michael Thompson, a consultant and Citrix engineer at a small healthcare solutions provider in Clearwater, Fla. "I hope they don't sell, I hope they remain as Citrix. … That would be my fear: The new CEO comes in and negotiates an acquisition deal."

Plus, a Citrix merger would mean less competition in a market that thrives on it, Thompson said.

"Citrix has remained competitive because they're standing alone, and I hope a new CEO recognizes that they're at an advantage by being in a competitive market right now," he said. "To sell that off would be to sell themselves short."

Still, "Citrix could be a very nice fit for a larger company's vision," said Eric Klein, director of mobile software at VDC Research in Natick, Mass.

Cisco could be interested in GoToMeeting, if not all of Citrix, to boost its unified communications and collaboration offerings, he said. Microsoft, which partners closely with Citrix on application and desktop virtualization, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise would also make sense as buyers, he added.

Another name to keep an eye on is Amazon, Klein said. The cloud computing giant is quietly amassing an EUC portfolio that includes desktop as a service, mobile app development and enterprise file sync and share.

"It'd make sense, actually," Klein said. "It'd be bold."

Next CEO still up in the air

Calderoni's financial leadership should help Citrix refocus on its most successful products, but Citrix also needs a leader with technology vision, customers and observers said.

"He's there to watch the money rather than set the vision per se," said Geoff Woollacott, practice manager and principal analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. in Hampton, N.H. "[Calderoni] will reassure Wall Street while they buy time to determine how best to proceed."

Bob Calderoni

There are two possible ways this could play out, Woollacott said. In the glass half full scenario, Calderoni could create a financial roadmap then hand over the keys to the next CEO. The half empty analogy is there may be no intention to bring in a new CEO; the board could decide to break the company up and sell it off, Wollacott said.

Who is Bob Calderoni?

Calderoni, who has a bachelor of science in accounting and finance from Fordham University, became a director on Citrix's board in June 2014 and executive chairman in July 2015. He was also chairman and CEO of Ariba Inc., from 2001 until SAP acquired the company in 2012. He remained CEO of Ariba and served on the global managing board at SAP AG.

Calderoni was also CFO of Ariba. Earlier in his career, he served as CFO at Avery Dennison Corporation, senior vice president of finance at Apple and vice president of finance at IBM. He is also a member of the board of directors of Juniper Networks and KLA Tencor.

But, Citrix stated the CEO search process continues, led by a committee that includes Calderoni and Elliott representatives, along with executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles.

Citrix's permanent choice is anyone's guess, but industry watchers expect the next CEO to come from outside of the company.

"I don't think there's a real good internal candidate," Egan said. "The executive ranks at Citrix have been a revolving door."

Klein agreed.

"They're having a tough time with their succession plan," he said. "They probably didn't have the right folks in place."

Templeton's Citrix and the end of an era

Templeton became president of Citrix in 1998 and CEO in 2001, during which time the company went from a $15 million, one-product company to a tech giant with annual revenues of $3.14 billion and 100 million users worldwide. Many users took to social media this week to send gratitude and support to Templeton for his vision and leadership.

"Mark T. is the blueprint for leadership," Chris Voce, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., wrote on Twitter, a thought echoed by many others. "A truly inspirational, engaging, insightful, warm person."

The news of Templeton's departure came the same day Citrix disclosed positive quarterly financials, with revenue up 7% year over year, from $759 million to $813 million. Product and license revenue increased 7%, and software as a service revenue jumped 15%. The company lost 13% on professional services, which include consulting, product training and certification.

Citrix plans to present the results of its ongoing restructuring, and provide its business outlook for fiscal year 2016 in mid-November.

Senior News Director Bridget Botelho, Editorial Director Colin Steele and Managing Editor Alyssa Wood contributed to this report.

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