Red Hat CEO Stepping Down

Jim Whitehurst, former chief operating officer of Delta Air Lines, has been named by the board to replace Matthew Szulik as president and CEO.
Matthew Szulik, who as CEO has steered Red Hat through a rapid and turbulent growth phase, is stepping down after nine years in the job. He will become chairman of Red Hat's board of directors.

Jim Whitehurst, former chief operating officer of Delta Air Lines, has been named by the board to replace Szulik as president and CEO. "Jim is a hands-on guy who will be a strong cultural fit at Red Hat," Szulik said, in making the announcement Thursday.

Szulik said he was transitioning out of the CEO role "for personal reasons" and, in a blog on the Red Hat site, recalled the days when his door-less office faced the free soda machine across the hall. As he had conversations with prospective partners and backers, soda cans would clunk into the well of the machine, and the repeated thuds prompted callers to ask if there were fights going on outside his office.

"After a while, I told the prospective investors that, yes, there were fights going on. And yes, these fights happened frequently. It's how people at Red Hat settled technical issues. ..." IBM, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard became investors, he wrote, "because they liked the fighting spirit of Red Hat." "Matt Szulik has been a visionary at Red Hat. We look forward to continuing to work with his management team," said Michael Simpson, senior VP and general manager of McKesson's health care applications business, in an interview. McKesson offers its Horizon Clinicals applications for hospitals and doctors' offices on Red Hat Linux.

Whitehurst is a former VP and director of the Boston Consulting Group. He is a graduate of Rice University in Houston with a bachelor's degree in computer science and economics. He holds a general course degree from the London School of Economics and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

"Our outlook is positive with strong technology, great people, ... and a global brand. I welcome this opportunity to lead Red Hat into the future," Whitehurst said in a prepared statement.

Red Hat reported its third-quarter earnings at the same time it announced the CEO change. Revenue of $135.4 million for the quarter ending Nov. 30 was up 28% over the same quarter a year ago. Subscription revenue represented $116 million of the total, up 30% from the same quarter the previous year.

Net income for the quarter was $20.3 million, or 10 cents a share, compared with $18.2 million and 9 cents the previous year.