Analysts were surprised by the decision, warning it bodes badly for Symantec's turnaround effort. Shares of the security and storage specialist were off 10.07% at $18.80 in pre-market trading. Symantec's stock is down 14.81% over the last 12 months.
FBR Capital Markets Analyst Daniel Ives described Bennett's termination as "jaw dropping" in a note released on Friday. "Despite a few speed bumps fundamentally over the past few quarters, and March guidance below expectations, we believe Mr. Bennett was viewed as key to the turnaround story at Symantec, and we think this abrupt changing of the guard could potentially lead some investors to throw in the "white towel" as it represents a big step backward in the company's recovery process," he wrote.
Bennett's termination marks the company's third CEO change in just over five years. Former Intuit (INTU) CEO Bennett took the company's reins from Enrique Salem in July 2012, vowing to revitalize the company, which has long been criticized for poor execution. In January 2013 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.