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New Network Associates chief looks to bolster sales

CEO George Samenuk may not bring a far-reaching vision to the folds of the security services company, but he aims to change it where it matters most: the bottom line.

Robert Lemos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Robert Lemos
covers viruses, worms and other security threats.
Robert Lemos
3 min read
Network Associates' new leader may not bring a far-reaching vision to the folds of the security services company, but he aims to change the company where it matters most: the bottom line.

With 24 hours under his belt as CEO at troubled Network Associates, George Samenuk's strategy boils down to two words: stock and sales.

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New CEO aims to revive Network Associates
George Samenuk, CEO, Network Associates

"The IT space that we are in--security and services--is the hottest thing going," said the 45-year-old IBM veteran. "But we need to get the shareholder value up?and we need to improve sales execution."

The new chief has his work cut out for him. Network Associates stock plummeted 68 percent to $3.75 a week ago, after the company announced a revision in its accounting practices would turn an expected operating profit into a net operating loss of $130 million to $140 million, or about 41 cents a share. Previously, analysts had been forecasting a gain of 31 cents a share for the quarter.

On top of the massive shortfall, the company canned three of its top executives this month, including William Larsen, the intensely competitive former CEO.

The financial reversal

Gartner analysts Richard Stiennon and John Pescatore say top management changes at Network Associates will not alter the basic vulnerability of the company's business model.

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comes as a result of a change in accounting procedures. The company's new accounting method has ceased counting shipped products as sold until the company's distributors have actually pushed the products out the door. Network Associates estimated the change would strip $120 million--almost 14 percent of its previously estimated annual revenue--from its coffers, until it could close the sales.

Samenuk knows his job is to build trust and get the product sold.

"It is basic blocking and tackling," he said, pointing to the company's $650 million in cash and strong brands as strengths.

In addition, he expects the economic slowdown won't hurt the security sector as much as it has other technology markets. "For today's companies, if it's a question about putting in new PCs or enhancing network security, most are going to go with security."

The security software market will jump from less than $4 billion in worldwide revenue in 1999 to more than $11 billion in 2004, according to market researcher IDC. Furthermore, IDC forecasts that the worldwide market for security consulting, implementation, management and training services will rocket up an average of 26 percent per year, from $5.5 billion in 1999 to $17.2 billion in 2004.

Network Associates' McAfee business unit has the lead in antivirus software for the business market with a 47 percent share, according to a recent IDC report.

Before joining Network Associates on Wednesday, Samenuk headed surplus business-equipment auction site TradeOut.com as CEO. He joined the company in January 2000, two months after a group of investors--including eBay--put $29 million in venture capital into the start-up.

Two months later, the company filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A TradeOut representative said the IPO was on hold until the market became more favorable.

Before joining TradeOut, Samenuk headed IBM's Americas Unit as general manager. He spent more than 22 years at the computer giant.

Network Associates sells security software and services to consumers and businesses. Its five business units include McAfee, Sniffer Technologies, PGP Security, Magic Solutions and MyCIO.com.