White resigns as Informix chairman

Phil White, who relinquished his title as CEO of Informix just nine days ago, leaves his post of chairman.

Mike Ricciuti Staff writer, CNET News
Mike Ricciuti joined CNET in 1996. He is now CNET News' Boston-based executive editor and east coast bureau chief, serving as department editor for business technology and software covered by CNET News, Reviews, and Download.com. E-mail Mike.
Mike Ricciuti
2 min read
Informix Software (IFMX) said today that Phil White has resigned as chairman of the company and from Informix's board of directors. Bob Finocchio, who replaced White as CEO nine days ago, has been elected to the chairman's post.

"I agree with the board that the company is best served with one clear leader to take a new view of the company's direction," White said in a prepared statement.

Just last week, at Informix's annual user conference, White said he would remain as chairman as long as he felt he was making a contribution to the company. He said he would relinquish the post if he, the board, or Finocchio did not see him serving a useful role.

White has been under fire recently from angry shareholders; some called for his resignation at the annual meeting in May. Investors blame White for Informix's sinking fortunes in recent months, as it focused its marketing and technical efforts on its new object-relational Universal Server, while scaling back efforts on its bread-and-butter Online Dynamic Server database.

The company reported an unexpected first-quarter loss of $140.1 million, as revenue plunged 34 percent to $133.7 million.

In April, Informix was slapped with a handful of shareholder lawsuits as the company's financial disclosures came under increased scrutiny. The suits alleged that Informix and certain of its officers and directors violated federal securities laws by misrepresenting the company's earnings growth potential. The suit also alleges that the company reported inflated and deceptive earnings because of improperly recognized revenue.

The company also took on rival Oracle (ORCL). Informix accused the No. 1 database maker of improperly hiring away 13 former Informix engineers and alleged they took trade secrets about a forthcoming database product with them. Informix withdrew the charges in June.

"The move to get White out of the CEO role was necessary, given the lack of credibility he had following last year's accounting issues," said Andrew Brosseau, an analyst with Cowen & Company. Brosseau added that it may have been hard for White to keep the role of chairman with Finnocchio as CEO, as it would be hard to tell who was in control.

Brosseau sees the move as positive, but says Informix still has a tough road ahead. "This doesn't mean that anything will get easier, regardless of who is on top at Informix. They have to reestablish credibility and momentum against two tough competitors--Oracle and Microsoft. They are the ones that are really growing and can make life difficult for Informix," he said.