Yesterday, a big executive switcheroo was announced: Pat Gelsinger, long considered Joe Tucci’s heir apparent at EMC, was named to replace Paul Maritz at VMware. Maritz, in turn, moves into the mothership with a “new technology strategist role” at EMC. I’m no analyst, but this move raised questions in my head, as I’m sure it did for many EMC and VMware customers.
King Tucci’s Succession
EMC has seen over a decade of phenomenal success under the leadership of Joe Tucci, but he will eventually have to retire. Reports suggested that would come this year, but Tucci has apparently committed to another 18 months at least. Considering its prominence in the enterprise IT space, and the remarkable success of Mr. Tucci, the industry has long puzzled over executive succession at EMC.
Who takes over EMC wants Joe Tucci (inevitably) steps down? The usual suspects have included CFO David Goulden and COO for infrastructure and cloud, Howard Elias, but it is COO for infrastructure products Pat Gelsinger that gets most of the attention. Indeed, Gelsinger was long seen as a shoo-in by analysts and press, with many suggesting that he was hired from Intel in 2009 for this purpose.
Paul Maritz, who proved himself at Microsoft, was brought into VMware in 2008 when parent company EMC purchased his Pi Corporation. Maritz inherited a troubled company but quickly set things straight, charting a new corporate course and impressing industry watchers as he steered VMware. Today, VMware is perhaps the most valuable component of the EMC empire, and Maritz deserves much of the credit.
Yesterday, it was announced that Pat Gelsinger will replace Paul Maritz as CEO of VMware. Maritz, in turn, takes a nonspecified “new technology strategist role” at EMC.
I can think of two scenarios to explain this executive switcheroo:
Grooming Prince Pat
On the face of it, this is a vote of confidence in Gelsinger. He takes on a CEO role for the first time, commanding a jewel of the EMC range. This new role could be seen to give Gelsinger the spotlight he needed to show that he is ready to take over EMC once Tucci leaves. He could also fold VMware back into EMC when he takes over.
But what of Paul Maritz? An unspecified role without a “C-level” title does not appear to be a positive move. This sort of thing often signals an executive is on the outs, with the company giving him time to arrange a graceful exit.
In this scenario, Pat Gelsinger proves to the board that he is ready to command EMC and takes the reins from Tucci next year. Maritz, meanwhile, retires from EMC in a few months, perhaps starting a new company or “spending more time with his family.” After all, Maritz (reportedly) “isn’t interested” in the EMC role.
Promoting Prince Paul
But there is an alternative scenario where Paul Maritz is the big winner. After all, Gelsinger has (allegedly) failed to prove himself at EMC so far while Maritz has won kudos and “executive of the year” awards. It doesn’t make sense for EMC to push out a successful executive in favor of one who has been questioned by the press and (allegedly) the board.
Perhaps Gelsinger’s appointment at VMware is a way to give him a graceful exit from EMC, while proven executive Maritz is given a year-long tour of EMC before taking over. In this case, we would see a lot more of Paul Maritz at EMC events, and he would be presented to the press as the new voice of EMC. When he does take over from Tucci, it will seem a natural succession.
This scenario makes just as much sense as the Gelsinger option. Paul Maritz would be an excellent choice for EMC, and would likely be deemed appropriate by the Board, the press, and the public. Although Gelsinger has done nothing to alienate those groups, rumors suggest he may not be the successor EMC was looking for.
There is a possible third option as well: EMC could be playing both sides at once, and trying to put some “heat” on both Pat Gelsinger and Paul Maritz. This could be the opportunity each needs to prove his worth, and the board could be waiting to see who rises to the occasion. This is perhaps the most likely scenario of all!
Again, I am not an analyst in the traditional sense and I do not have any inside information regarding this matter. But this executive switcheroo between VMware and EMC made me think, and I imagine others are considering the same questions. I have met both Pat Gelsinger and Paul Maritz at EMC and VMware events and am equally impressed by both. Honestly, I would be happy with either scenario!