McNealy departure rumor bubbling up again

Persistent rumors in recent months that Scott McNealy may step down as Sun Microsystems' chief executive returned in force Thursday, as reports of the possibility appeared in the Wall Street Journal and San Francisco Chronicle.

The stories came as computing industry sources reported in recent months that major changes could be in the works at Sun, in particular with the return of Chief Financial Officer Mike Lehman. Lehman has said that he'll reveal and begin a new Sun strategy in July and that he's "taking a fresh look at everything." Some expect deep layoffs.

One former Sun insider has heard Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Schwartz will become CEO, Lehman will take over as COO, and McNealy will remain chairman. Another rumor gives the CEO spot to Lehman. But McNealy, who already has survived several tough years without being ousted by the board, has shown little indication he wants to throw in the towel.

"I'm here for the duration. at an analyst meeting in February. Sun declined to comment.

"Scott still seems very engaged in this company," Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi said earlier this month, but change could take place. Sun's board appears more focused on restoring revenue growth and profitability.

"The question much will Scott be comfortable in terms of cost-cutting and redirection," Sacconaghi said. If there are major cuts and changes, "he may be less comfortable and may choose to move to a less involved role."

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