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Symantec Terminates CEO Steve Bennett, Shares Slide

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Symantec's (SYMC) board has terminated Steve Bennett as president and CEO after less than two years at the software maker's helm, it announced after market close. The company has appointed Michael Brown as interim president and CEO.

Shares of Symantec were off 6.72% to $19.50 in extended trading.

Bennett's departure comes just 20 months after he took the company's reins from Enrique Salem. The former Intuit (INTU) CEO vowed to breathe new life into Symantec, which had long been criticized for poor execution. Last January he announced his turnaround plan for the company, which involved streamlining, a complete shift in the company's sales coverage model and a focus on 10 core areas, including information-security services, security gateways, data-center security and storage.

In November, however, he acknowledged that he underestimated the impact of the massive restructuring effort. Nonetheless, he said that he remained confident in his turnaround plan.

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Symantec shares have fallen 14.83% over the last 12 months. In January, the company was downgraded by Morgan Stanley, which noted potential sales disruption from Symantec's transition.

"We recognize Steve's contributions to Symantec, including developing and leading a series of successful initiatives focused on organizational realignment, cost reduction and process effectiveness," said Symantec chairman Daniel Schulman, in a statement released after market close. "These changes have helped establish a solid foundation for Symantec's future, and we remain committed to our previously announced greater-than 5% organic revenue growth and better-than 30% non-GAAP operating margin targets by FY17."

"This considered decision was the result of an ongoing deliberative process, and not precipitated by any event or impropriety," added Schulman.

Bennett also resigned from Symantec's board on Monday.

Brown joined Symantec's board in 2005 following the company's merger with Veritas. Previously, he was the CEO of Quantum corporation. "With recent key hires, we have a leadership team in place that is capable of accelerating our growth and I look forward to working closely with them to help execute the next phase of the company's transformation plan," said Brown, in the Symantec statement. "The need for protecting and managing your information has never been stronger, and we must act aggressively to capture a growing share of this market."

A special committee of the board will immediately begin the search for a permanent CEO with the assistance of a "leading executive search firm," according to Symantec's statement.

Symantec also reiterated its fiscal fourth-quarter guidance after market close, forecasting revenue between $1.615 billion and $1.655 billion, down from $1.748 billion in the same period last year. Excluding items, Symantec expects earnings between 40 and 42 cents a share, compared to 44 cents a share in the prior year's quarter.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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