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SugarCRM CEO Roberts replaced by board member

John Roberts, the fiery commercial open-source innovator, resigns for undisclosed reasons and is immediately replaced by interim CEO and SugarCRM board member Larry Augustin.

John Roberts on Wednesday resigned from his post as CEO of open-source CRM vendor SugarCRM, leaving board member Larry Augustin to assume the role of interim CEO while the company conducts a formal search for his replacement.

John Roberts SugarCRM

Roberts, whose grounds for leaving the company and future plans remain undisclosed, has made a huge impact on the open-source world, innovating the "Open Core" business model and helping drive open-source applications into the enterprise.

SugarCRM, despite losing Roberts, will be in good hands with Larry Augustin, who, as founder and former CEO of VA Linux, sits on a number of open-source company boards, including Pentaho, Compiere, Appcelerator, and Medsphere. He understands how to run an open-source business and, importantly, what to look for in leadership. Augustin should be able to find a strong CEO to lead SugarCRM.

Augustin's near-term task is clear, as he outlines in his blog announcing the change in leadership:

Yesterday, I stepped into the role of interim CEO at the company. I have an immense amount of respect for the founding CEO, John Roberts...My goals for the next 30 days at SugarCRM are fairly simple: get to know the team, customers, and partners. I am looking forward to helping them to continue to execute and (taking) the company to the next level.

In other words, continue the solid work that Roberts started.

I first met Roberts at an SDForum event in 2004, at which time I thought that he was crazy for believing open source could succeed in applications. He and his SugarCRM team persisted in their Quixotic dream, building SugarCRM into a thriving company that brought in tens of millions of dollars in sales last year and has an eye on an IPO.

I couldn't reach Roberts for comment but hope that he spends a little of his downtime on cycling, one of his passions, before he leaps back into the open-source world. As Augustin notes of Roberts, "Few people have taken a company from concept to major growth the way John did at Sugar."

I agree. Roberts will be missed. Fortunately, his legacy should live on at SugarCRM, one of the pioneers of commercial open source.

Disclosure: I am an adviser to SugarCRM.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.