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Symantec CEO John Thompson to Step Down

UPDATED: John W. Thompson, the CEO of antivirus and security software company Symantec, will retire from the post as of the end of the company's fiscal year, the company announced today.

Thompson, 59, will be replaced as CEO by Enrique T. Salem, the company's chief operating officer, but will remain chairman of the board of Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC).

Salem, 43, will also take on the office of president, and will join Symantec's board of directors.

"I've always believed planning for succession and ensuring a seamless transition was one of the most important parts of my role as CEO of Symantec," Thompson said at a press conference called to announce the management changes. "I've been working on this for the past two years."

He described Salem as an outstanding business partner and a significant contributor to Symantec's success, who has built up strong relationships with the company's employees, customers and partners and has worked closely with him in shaping corporate strategy.

"The board and I viewed Enrique's appointment to COO in January 2008 as an integral step in our succession planning process, we're extremely pleased with his performance and are confident this transition will be seamless," Thompson said.

Salem praised Thompson, and said his vision transformed Symantec over the past 10 years. "He has put in place the framework for continued growth and success, and I speak on behalf of the board and every Symantec employee when I say we're indebted to John and his vision," he said during the press conference.

Thompson has been leading the company through a growth strategy during the past few years, which grew bumpy at times such as the 2005 purchase of back-up software vendor Veritas for $13.5 billion.

Most recently, Symantec bought online messaging and Web security provider MessageLabs for about $695 million in cash.

But it was the company's purchase of Veritas that had many in the industry questioning whether it offered the right synergy for growth. Symantec's work to integrate Veritas' data backup and recovery products struggled. However, the deal also signaled Symantec's efforts to diversify its base as the traditional antivirus and security software sector became crowded.

Salem said he plans to drive increased revenue growth in two areas -- security, and backup and recovery. "We have a fabulous set of folks in lots of key jobs and we've been developing a range of these people to take on bigger responsibilities," he added. "We feel that, at the end of this malaise we're in, we'll gain market share."

Shares of Symantec closed down by about 41 cents to $12.16 during regular trading Monday.

Updated to include comments by Symantec officials in today's press conference.