Stephen Kelly, the chief executive of FTSE 250 software developer Micro Focus International, shocked the market today by stepping down, citing personal reasons.
The company announced that Mr Kelly had informed the board of his decision, which sent the shares spiralling down over 10 per cent in the morning as analysts called it “a major blow”.
He said: “The timing and nature of these personal decisions is never easy - it will be sad for me to leave the company. I will be supporting a managed transition and then take time to assess the next steps for me and my family.” Micro Focus said it had already launched the search for a successor.
George O’Connor, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: “This is disappointing news, as he has driven a root and branch change programme through the business.”
Mr Kelly, who previously worked at Oracle, joined the group in 2006, shortly after it floated on the London Stock Exchange. The group was going through a rocky patch and was forced to issue a series of profit warnings shortly after.
Ian Spence of IS Research said Mr Kelly went on to lead “what many consider to be one of the most successful turnarounds in the sector’s recent history.”
This summer, he oversaw the acquisition of Borland Software for $113m and the testing business of Compuware for $80m.
“Even putting aside there may be some kind of board room bust up behind this news, it is a game changer for Micro Focus and his departure is a major blow,” he added.
The group has recently launched a three-year plan, which Mr Spence said could have seen the company join the FTSE 100. “Without Kelly at the helm, that eventuality looks significantly less likely”.
Kevin Loosemore, chairman of Micro Focus said Mr Kelly had made a “significant contribution” to the business, adding: “Under Stephen’s leadership, Micro Focus has achieved the ambitious plans set back in 2006, and is poised for the next stage of growth.”