Siebel Systems Names New CEO

Tom Siebel will remain chairman as former IBM exec J. Michael Lawrie takes over as president and CEO.
Author:
Publish date:

Updated from 5:07 p.m. EDT

Tom Siebel, the founder of

Siebel Systems

(SEBL)

will relinquish his title as CEO and president in favor of J. Michael Lawrie, a senior IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

executive, the enterprise software company announced after the closing bell Monday.

Siebel will retain the title of chairman.

Earlier Monday,

IBM announced that Lawrie was leaving the company, effective immediately, but didn't say where he was going.

The shakeup caught Wall Street by surprise. "Hard to make heads or tails of this until we know why," said analyst Charles Di Bona of Bernstein & Co. "This seems to have happened very quickly."

Siebel himself said in a conference call that he had decided to separate the roles of chairman and CEO last year, and promised to stay out of Lawrie's way. "Mike is the CEO; Mike runs the company," he said.

For his part, Lawrie said he doesn't expect other major changes at the top of the company, and he will act as head of sales, a position that's been open since the beginning of the year.

Lawrie's pedigree, 26 years at IBM, was obviously a big factor in Siebel's decision to hire him. IBM is Siebel's single largest customer and hosts Siebel OnDemand, a low-cost customer relationship management application the company launched last year. Lawrie made a point of saying on the call that he left IBM "on excellent terms."

Although he pledged not to rock the executive boat any further, there is already speculation that David Schmaier, a senior vice president who had appeared to be Siebel's heir apparent, could be on the way out. "His pet project (the UAN integration solution) has not lived up to expectations. If it had, he'd be CEO," said one source close to the company.

Siebel, who recently led his company to recovery after several difficult years, said Lawrie was his first choice to run the company. Asked to clarify his role as chairman, Siebel said: "As CEO his job is to manage the business. As chair I will continue to be active in the business; to work with customers and partners and help Mike do whatever it takes to get the job done."

Analyst Brendan Barnicle called the news "an incremental positive," noting that Lawrie has extensive sales experience.

Once known as one of the most outspoken and self-confident software executives in the business, Siebel has been notably subdued since he ran afoul of

Securities and Exchange Commission

regulations last year by holding an informal dinner with Wall Street analysts who cover the company.

"Being a CEO is much less fun these days. You could see signs that Siebel was playing a smaller role recently," said Bruce Daley, who edits the

Siebel Observer

, a newsletter for investors.

Siebel shares were recently off 10 cents, or 0.9%, to $10.52 in after-hours trading; the stock rose 33 cents, or 3.2%, to $10.62 in regular trading Monday while IBM shares dipped 15 cents, or 0.2%, to $88.02.