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Novell Ousts CEO Messman, CFO

Novell said it has ousted CEO Jack Messman and CFO Joseph S. Tibbetts Jr., a significant but unsurprising management shake-up for the struggling software company.

The company's board of directors tabbed President Ronald W. Hovsepian CEO and board member effective immediately. Dana C. Russell, vice president of finance and corporate controller at Novell, will serve as interim CFO while the company looks to fill the position.

Ron Hovsepian
Ronald Hovsepian
Source: Novell

Novell, headquartered in Waltham, Mass., began retooling as a mixed-source vendor under Messman, offering open source Linux and identity and resource management software to compete with companies such as Red Hat , IBM and Oracle .

But the company needs new blood or something to snap out of the recent second quarter financial funk that yielded analyst downgrades and renewed support for top rival Red Hat.

Total revenue slipped to $287 million from $297 million, while maintenance and services revenue dropped to $238 million from $251 million.

"The Board concluded that a management change would be the best way to accelerate the execution of our growth strategy and build value for shareholders," said Thomas G. Plaskett, a director of Novell since November 2002 and new chairman of the Novell board.

Plaskett said on a conference call the changes had nothing to do with accounting issues or other improprieties.

"The board's decision was based purely on an evaluation of who is best suited to lead the company going forward at this stage of the company's development."

He also credited Messman and Tibbetts Jr. with leading Novell through a period of dramatic change in the software and IT sectors.

As for Hovsepian, Plaskett said the executive has played an integral role in developing the company's open enterprise strategy, directing product development, marketing, sales, consulting and technical services.

"As CEO, my top priority will be to accelerate the speed and urgency behind the execution of our business strategy and the transition to our Linux-based products, identity and resource management," Hovsepian said on the call.

"With Linux running more and more on the worldwide servers and being a greater presence on the desktops and other areas, I believe we have a tremendous opportunity before us."

Messman will remain on Novell's Board of Directors until Oct. 31, 2006.