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Red Hat board member trades one mission for another

Steve Albrecht is leaving the company to serve an LDS mission, but will find that his Red Hat experience has been good preparation.

Steve Albrecht, a longstanding Red Hat board member, has resigned from Red Hat's board effective June 30, 2009. The reason? Albrecht, originally tapped six years ago by Red Hat chairman Matthew Szulik, will serve as a mission president in Japan for the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), starting in early July.

It's a new mission for Albrecht, but will require many of the same attributes that made him a successful board member for Red Hat. My father also serves as a mission president in the LDS Church (Buenos Aires, Argentina), and I've seen first-hand the sort of work that LDS mission presidents do. It's not easy, but Albrecht's work for Red Hat has prepared him well.

I've talked with Szulik before about Albrecht and his influence at Red Hat. One experience in particular illustrates Albrecht's imprint on Red Hat. Back in the summer of 2004, Red Hat announced a change in how it recognizes revenue, moving from a system by which it had been recognizing revenue in the month a subscription starts to a system by which the revenue is deferred to the month in which it ends. This may seem small, but it required Red Hat to restate its earnings and its stock took a nose dive in the aftermath. Albrecht was heavily involved in that decision.

It was the right thing to do, but it was a hard thing to do. Albrecht, as a member of Red Hat's Audit Committee, was heavily involved, so much so that he was named in a lawsuit against the company over the stock tumble, which cited his "specialized financial expertise" as a key reason to hold him accountable.

But it was Albrecht's ethical consistency that really factored into the decision to change the revenue recognition policy. Albrecht's professional work has strongly emphasized ethics in accounting, which helped him to promote the need for change and hold to that change when the markets reacted.

Albrecht has been good for Red Hat. Red Hat, in turn, has been good for him, and his experiences there will enable him to serve his new mission with fortitude, ethics, and honor. As a longtime friend of the family (I served on student council in high school with Albrecht's son, Conan), I wish him well.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.