Enrique Salem
Enrique Salem
Enrique Salem, who climbed the ranks at Symantec after his email security firm was acquired four years ago, was tapped Monday as Big Yellow's next chief executive officer.

He will replace John Thompson, 59, who led Symantec for the past decade, growing the company from a consumer software maker known for its Norton family of anti-virus products to information security bellwether that developed enterprise offerings in internet and data protection and storage management.

During his tenure, Thompson oversaw at least 39 acquisitions, one of which occurred in June 2004, when Symantec picked up anti-spam solutions provider Brightmail for $370 million. Brightmail's CEO was Salem, who joined Symantec as the group president of the consumer business unit.

In that role, Salem, 43, led the development of Symantec's all-in-one internet security product, Norton 360. He was later promoted to director of worldwide sales and marketing, and in January, was appointed chief operating officer.

"I've always believed that planning for succession was a critical part of my role, and for the past two years, have been working with the board on a thoughtful succession plan," Thompson said. "Through that process, Enrique emerged as the right person to lead the company."

During the first half of his reign at Symantec, Thompson's skills as an effective communicator and sharp businessman helped the company's stock rise from around $2.50 a share at the end of 1998 to around $33.50 a share in December 2004, two weeks before the company announced plans to acquire storage giant Veritas.

"He was a really good Wall Street-type CEO," Gartner Vice President and Research Fellow John Pescatore told SCMagazineUS.com on Tuesday. "But from the chief operation side, we saw lots of duplication and lots of things banging into each other."

Perhaps Symantec made too many acquisitions, Pescatore said, negatively affecting product innovation. Nowhere was that more evident than the $13.5 million purchase of Veritas, which some investors viewed as a change in focus by Symantec. In the months that followed, Thompson found himself defending the acquisition to investors.

"From a security perspective, it definitely diluted Symantec and pulled them into areas that were not that germane to security," Pescatore said, adding that this helped McAfee steal market share from Symantec.

Thompson plans to retire at the end of the fiscal year, and Salem will take over as president and CEO effective April 4, 2009. Thompson will remain chairman of the board, while Salem will join the board of directors.