Novell aims to shake passive Frankenberg era

Novell has proclaimed that with the immediate resignation of CEO, chairman and president Robert Frankenberg, the company will begin to more aggressively pursue the Internet/intranet market.

Novell has proclaimed that with the immediate resignation of CEO, chairman and president Robert Frankenberg, the company will begin to more aggressively pursue the Internet/intranet market.

"We've been relatively passive the last few years, but that's going to change," says Joseph Marengi, the former executive vice-president of worldwide sales at Novell who has been appointed president. "No longer will people ask, `Where is Novell? Are they present in the new intranet space?'"

Frankenberg was at the helm of Novell for two-and-a-half years ago, but resigned this week in mutual agreement with the board of directors of the Utah-based networking and applications software company. John Young, former president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a member of Novell's board, has been appointed chairman. The company has launched a search for a new CEO, Young says.

Asked if the issue was that Frankenberg had not pursued a sufficiently aggressive marketing strategy, Young says, "It was time for him to step down and for us to move on to new leadership." Young acknowledges a "debt of gratitude" to Frankenberg, calling his tenure a difficult one as he sorted out the company's multiple product lines.

Before Frankenberg joined Novell, former CEO Ray Noorda had broadened its focus from networking with acquisitions such as the 1994 takeover of WordPerfect. In the past few years, Microsoft's Windows NT has emerged as a strong challenger to Novell's core product, the NetWare network operating system, according to industry analysts.

"I'm working with Joe to make sure Novell moves ahead as aggressively as possible," Young says. Novell is perfectly positioned for the intranet market, he maintains. While Frankenberg's departure may appear to indicate "another period of turmoil in the company, really it isn't", Marengi says. The rest of the management team is stable, he says.

Industry analysts agree that the change in leadership will be good for Novell. "It's the best thing for both Bob and the company," says Waverly Deutsch, director of the computing strategies service at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "He did a real good job of stabilising the company after Noorda's bizarre acquisition sprees and getting it into fighting shape," he says. "But it really will take someone more aggressive and confrontational, someone more on the marketing side of the house, someone more out in your face, to really take Novell to the next step in terms of positioning themselves for the Internet and intranet."

Novell's third quarter earnings were down 42% from the same period last year, to US$59 million, and its second quarter earnings were also lower than expected.

Novell is on the World Wide Web at http://www.novell.com.

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