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Johanne Torres[October 1, 2004]

Let�s Not Mince Words: PeopleSoft Cans Its CEO


One could never refer to PeopleSoft as a wishy-washy company. During my last visit to the company�s headquarters in Pleasanton, California, I was struck by the fact that every tree on the extensive grounds of PeopleSoft�s property was encircled by a blue ribbon. A show of solidarity, I was told, against the slavering Big Bad Wolf tactics of Oracle�s Larry Ellison and his bid for a hostile takeover of the company. Even some of the local businesses � restaurants and shops � had trees smartly sporting blue ribbons. Though I saw no dartboards with Ellison�s picture on them, I don�t doubt they were there�perhaps hidden behind doors or underneath no-nonsense whiteboards that flip up after-hours for employees� dart-throwing glee.


So, it�s without a great deal of surprise that I read the news that PeopleSoft has given the heave-ho to CEO and president Craig Conway, appointing instead founder and chairman (and former CEO) David Duffield back to the post. The company also announced that effective immediately, it was appointing Kevin Parker and Phil Wilmington as co-presidents, and Aneel Bhusri as vice chairman of the board.


Do you know another thing I like about PeopleSoft? The company doesn�t go in for any of the usual mealy-mouthed double-speak in which companies usually engage when they axe an executive. I�ve had it up to here with �He left to pursue other opportunities.� �The relationship between our CEO and our organization just didn�t fit in with our executive cafeteria�s feng shui� or �She left because she�d rather pursue a fulfilling career of searching the beaches of Martha�s Vineyard with a metal detector and a small rake.�


Forget that. PeopleSoft stated, �The board said its decision resulted from a loss of confidence in Mr. Conway�s ability to continue to lead the company. All of these decisions received the unanimous vote of the independent directors.� A little honesty is welcome in this presidential election year in which the unending stream of sound-bite spin and talking heads is positively choking us.


The news had the predictable stock market ramifications (PeopleSoft stock jumped 8 percent after the news was announced, Oracle�s jumped five percent.)


It is, however, interesting to note that Conway was vehemently opposed to accommodating the Oracle takeover in any way; Conway and Ellison were known to have been bitter foes. Does this means that PeopleSoft is softening on the Oracle takeover? I wouldn�t venture to second-guess the company on something that important. All I can do, like anyone, is watch and wait.


Tracey Schelmetic is the Editorial Director for Customer Interaction Solutions Magazine. She welcomes your comments.


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