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Informix chairman to step down as CEO

Chairman Bob Finocchio will give up his roles as president and chief executive officer and names chief financial officer Jean-Yves Dexmier to succeed him.

Informix appointed a new chief executive, Jean-Yves Dexmier, who said e-commerce and data warehousing is key to the company's continued resurgence.

Dexmier, currently Informix's executive vice president of worldwide field operations, will replace Bob Finocchio, who announced today he is stepping down to spend more time with family and pursue personal interests. Finocchio will stay on as company chairman after the changeover in mid-July.

The 47-year-old Dexmier plans no major changes and will continue the game plan set forth by Finocchio, who in his two years turned the struggling database software maker back toward profitability, including six consecutive quarters of operating profit.

"My plan is to continue the direction set by Bob. We've really set the company in the right direction," said Dexmier, who first joined Informix in 1997 as chief financial officer. "The next step is all about building shareholder value in the areas of data warehousing and the Internet."

Analysts were surprised by the management change, but said Finocchio had done a stellar job. "Finocchio made great progress in turning a company around that was in dire shape," said analyst James Pickrel, of Hambrecht & Quist. "They regained profitability quickly and it's now poised to take it to the next level."

Two years ago, Finocchio took over a company in the midst of financial turmoil, management shakeups, and product-marketing snafus. Since that time, Finocchio has revamped the company's sales organization and redefined the company's product strategy by targeting the high-end database market as well as data warehousing and e-commerce, which analysts say are among the few growing markets for database sales.

The company in 1998 bought data warehousing provider Red Brick Systems to spruce up its hold on technology that gives businesses detailed reports of data and transactions. It recently released e-commerce software that allows companies to build their Web site storefronts. Informix is also working to build next-generation database software that focus on e-commerce and data warehousing.

Analysts say Dexmier's challenge is to maintain growth. "He has to sustain growth that's been established, but he comes with a well-defined technology road map," said analyst Merv Adrian, of Giga Information Group

But Sybase--as well as database powerhouses Oracle and IBM--are going after the data warehousing and e-commerce markets too, Adrian said.

"Who wins is the market drama over the next two years," he said. "How they outperform the Oracles and IBMs in those markets is open to question. But it's a good strategy because everybody is buying their technology in a solutions package."

In an interview, Finnochio said the time was right to step down, but that he will continue to work closely with Dexmier on company strategy.

"We've survived the crisis and gained financial stability," said Finnochio, who plans to climb the 19,000-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. "The transition was made possible because my partner for nearly two years--Jean-Yves--was here ready and knows the business and has the passion and commitment."

Finnochio said his only regret was not increasing the value of Informix's stock, which has remained at about $7 throughout his tenure. Analysts, however, said Finnochio is being hard on himself and that turning around the company was an impressive feat.

Informix has made several management changes in recent months. Philip Rugani, a former Oracle executive, joined Informix in March as the company's new vice president of sales in North America. Howard Bain, a former chief financial officer for software developer Symantec, joined Informix as CFO in January.