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Is new Red Hat exec a prelude to IPO?

The Linux distributor names former Visio executive Tim Buckley its new chief operating officer, fueling speculation that the company may be considering going public.

Tim Buckley has left a high-ranking post at graphics software firm Visio to become chief operating officer of Linux distributor Red Hat.

Buckley had been with Visio since 1993 and rose to the rank of senior vice president of worldwide sales. Visio chief executive Jeremy Jaech said he was key in increasing the company's revenue.

Buckley will officially start at Red Hat on Monday, the same day it will announce a new version of its software, Red Hat 6.0.

Red Hat is currently the darling of the Linux world. Speculation that it may go public is growing, but the company has not commented on this.

Although it's "reasonable speculation" that the appointment could be a prelude to taking the company public, it's also the case that Red Hat simply "needs someone with big company experience to come in and lend a hand" as the company deals with its growth and other issues, said International Data Corporation analyst Dan Kusnetzky.

Red Hat chief executive Robert Young said in a statement that Buckley will help Red Hat handle the growth in demand for Red Hat products. "His insight will help Red Hat continue accelerating the adoption of Linux and the expansion of our business, service, and support operations," Young said.

Before Visio, Buckley worked at Approach, a database company acquired by Lotus, and also at Aldus, a graphics company acquired by Adobe.

Red Hat has recently received investments from some of the biggest names in computing, including Intel, Dell Computer, IBM, Novell, SAP, Oracle, Compaq Computer, and Netscape.

Red Hat was the top Linux distributor in 1998, Kusnetzky said, and Young has said the company shipped 400,000 copies of Linux that year.