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Novonyx CEO may be out of a job

The company acknowledges that staff changes are taking place, but neither confirms nor denies that the CEO of the joint venture is out of a job.

Novonyx today said there are staff changes taking place at the Orem, Utah-based software company, but would neither confirm nor deny published reports stating that the CEO of the joint Netscape and Novell venture is out of a job.

According to reports late yesterday, an email purporting to be signed by "Novonyx employees" said that Novonyx CEO Robert Hicks had been replaced by Novell executive vice president Chris Stone and that Novell was seeking to increase its control of Novonyx.

Novonyx officials would not confirm those reports.

Reached at his home this morning, Hicks said he was not under a gag order not to speak about the situation, as earlier reported, but maintained that he could not comment on whether he still had a desk at Novonyx.

Some industry observers say it's no surprise that Novell would try to reign in Novonyx, as Novell has been openly stacking the company with former Novell executives for some time. Hicks himself came from Novell and headed its four-person executive team that developed and negotiated the joint venture.

International Data Corporation analyst Mark Levitt, however, said it doesn't make good business sense to attempt to control the two-year-old company.

"I don?t know why they would have changed their minds. From the beginning the company was designed to be independent from Novell and Netscape, even to compete in some areas," Levitt said. "Maybe they see it as hurting their market in some way, or they feel it would do better under more control."

Novonyx was charged with adapting and marketing Netscape's SuiteSpot family of Internet server software for use on Novell's IntranetWare corporate network platform.

Ironically, on the same day the reports of Hicks' departure were published, Novonyx began the first customer shipments of Netscape's server software for Novell's NetWare network operating system, adding the first Netscape server applications tailored for Novell. The first product shipments by Novonyx offer a boost to both Novell and Netscape, giving the former much-needed Web-based applications and creating the potential for additional customers for the latter.

Levitt said he wonders why Novell would fix something that's not broken. "The project was succeeding," he said. "It would not make sense to change what works."

In related news, Netscape said it expects to lay off 400 employees when it announces its quarterly results later this month. As part of a restructuring effort aimed at controlling costs, the software company announced last week that it will take a fourth-quarter restructuring charge of about $35 million in connection with staff reductions, the closure of certain facilities, and other write-offs.