The Cupertino, California-based software company said Thompson, a career executive at IBM and general manager of one of IBM's business units, has been named president and chief executive officer and will also be appointed chairman of its board of directors. Current chairman Carl Carman will relinquish his title, but remain on the company's board of directors.
Executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International placed Thompson at Symantec.
Former president and CEO Gordon Eubanks announced his resignation last week. Eubanks, who has headed the company since 1983, announced he was leaving to accept a position as CEO for software start-up Oblix.
Thompson, 49, brings to his position nearly 30 years of experience at IBM where he managed IBM Americas, a $37 billion business unit. Much of his experience was in customer and partner relations, management, and marketing.
Thompson said he'll continue meeting customers' needs, work to move Symantec's Internet strategy, and maintain "strong financial health and return on investment for shareholders."
At IBM Americas, Thompson "significantly" improved profitability for each of the last two years, Symantec said. Prior to that, Thompson was general manager of IBM's personal software products division and general manager of a marketing department that supported a software company within IBM.
"Symantec is extremely fortunate, and obviously very pleased to have someone of John's experience and ability to lead the company to the next phase," Eubanks said in a statement.
Tomorrow, Symantec is expected to report its fourth-quarter earnings after the market closes. The company is expected to post a profit of 44 cents per share, according to First Call.