Novell Slides on Exec Departure

The exit of the software maker's No. 2 executive sends shares down 18 cents after hours.
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Shares of

Novell

(NOVL)

were slipping after hours on the unexpected news that the software company's No. 2 executive has left "to pursue other opportunities."

Chris Stone, whose official title was vice chairman, office of the CEO, had been with the company since March 2002 and was responsible for engineering, product management and alliances, the company said. His resignation is effective immediately.

"It is with some regret that I have decided to leave Novell and pursue other professional opportunities," Stone said.

In recent after-hours trading, Novell was off 18 cents a share, or 2.5%, to $7; the stock gained 8 cents to close the day at $7.18 a share.

Laura DiDio, who follows the company for the Yankee Group, a market researcher and consultancy, called Stone's departure "a potential blow to Novell. He is widely known and respected in the software industry," she said.

According to DiDio, there is evidence that the company is in the midst of a shake-up. At least one other senior product manager left recently, and others have not been reachable. DiDio speculated that Stone, who had been seen as a strong candidate to succeed CEO Jack Messman, became tired of waiting for the top job to open up.

Stone could not be reached for comment.

Novell, a former leader in network operating systems, has moved into the Linux market. The company recently announced a deal to place its version of Linux

on some servers made by

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

, a move that narrows the gap between Novell and market leader

Red Hat

(RHAT)

.