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2/6/2009
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Three Execs Reportedly Out At Salesforce.com

Reuters reports that three high-level execs are out at Salesforce.com. The on-demand software company hasn't issued a statement, and I can't yet reach the PR team this morning (it's 7 a.m. on the West Coast). But I do find it interesting that it reportedly showed the door to Gary Hanna, executive VP of enterprise sales, a market segment viewed critical to Salesforce.com's continuing growth.

Reuters reports that three high-level execs are out at Salesforce.com. The on-demand software company hasn't issued a statement, and I can't yet reach the PR team this morning (it's 7 a.m. on the West Coast). But I do find it interesting that it reportedly showed the door to Gary Hanna, executive VP of enterprise sales, a market segment viewed critical to Salesforce.com's continuing growth.Salesforce.com reportedly confirmed that president and chief strategy officer Steve Cakebread (of the Cakebread wine family, for you grape aficionados) has resigned for personal reasons. Reuters also reported the departures of Hanna and another unnamed exec VP; a Salesforce.com spokesman wouldn't comment late Thursday.

While some financial analysts remain bullish on Salesforce.com, Cowen Co. analyst Peter Goldmacher has consistently been guarded in his assessment of the company's future prospects -- particularly its ability to sign on a lot more large companies as customers of its on-demand CRM software and other offerings.

Goldmacher's latest note on Salesforce.com, issued Feb. 4, says: "While the company has been able to close deals, we believe the deals, in general, have been downsized and invoice duration has been shortened. We know of no deals over 1,000 seats in the quarter." Goldmacher also anticipates an increase in the churn rate among Salesforce.com customers in the coming weeks. Indeed, it may be easier for businesses hurt by the economy and/or downsizing their workforces to drop SaaS subscription seats they no longer need, or feel they can afford, than it would be for them to get out of software license deals.

In all fairness, though, Salesforce.com already has an impressive lineup of big-company customers. The question is whether it can keep finding its way into the 1,000+ seat deals. One theory is that the poor economy may actually open up those opportunities as big companies seek cheaper alternatives to licensed software. We'll see.

Update later Friday: Salesforce.com spokesman Gordon Evans said the company does not comment on "rumors" when asked about the reported departure of enterprise sales exec Hanna. Salesforce.com issued this statement on Cakebread:

"Steve did a remarkable job in his time here at salesforce.com, putting the people and processes in place to build an outstanding company. And we wish him all the best in his future endeavours."

-- Attributed to Bruce Francis, VP of corporate strategy.

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