June 2, 2000 6:15 AM PDT

TurboLinux to name new CEO amid layoffs

TurboLinux will announce today a new chief executive, the second major change this week after Wednesday's layoffs.

As earlier reported, founder and former chief executive Cliff Miller will remain chairman, while president and chief operating officer Paul Thomas will take over as CEO, the company said.

"I'm going to be chairman, focusing on strategic issues, being a spokesman,...looking at markets and technologies. Paul is going to continue running the company operations," Miller said in an interview.

In another change, the TurboLinux board has a new member. A veteran of the computing industry, Gordon Eubanks is currently the CEO of Oblix, and formerly held the top spot at Symantec.

Linux companies have suffered some hard times of late. TurboLinux announced layoffs Wednesday as a way to cut expenses and force the company closer to profitability. The move was a less drastic step than the measures taken by LinuxCare, which laid off a large fraction of its staff and withdrew its plans for a public offering.

The CEO shuffle and the layoffs are "completely unrelated," Thomas said. He and Miller had planned the CEO change for weeks, and the board approved the move this week after Miller's suggestion, Thomas said. "We knew from the start this is what we'd like to do," he said.

The move parallels a CEO shuffle at TurboLinux competitor Red Hat, which in November transferred the CEO mantle from Bob Young to COO Matthew Szulik, with Young staying on as chairman.

Linux, a clone of the Unix operating system and competitor to Microsoft Windows, took the computing industry by storm last year, winning a place in the product lines of the biggest computing companies. That excitement helped fuel several stellar IPOs, including those of Red Hat, Cobalt Networks, Andover.Net and VA Linux Systems.

Now, while Linux still is popular, breathless investors no longer assume it's a guaranteed road to riches. Shares in Andover.Net and Caldera Systems are trading below their IPO prices.

CNET's Linux Center TurboLinux has several points to its business model: selling Linux in Asia, where it got its start; tuning Linux to work well with major software packages such as Oracle database software; and joining together many computers in "clusters" that collectively tackle a single problem. It's also focusing on creating a version of Linux for Intel's upcoming flagship Itanium chip, due later this year.

Eubanks led Symantec, best known for its fix-it software such as Norton Antivirus or Norton Utilities, from 1984 to 1999. He now runs Oblix, a computer security firm that helps companies control who has access to what computing resources.

TurboLinux approached Eubanks and several others "to expand the experience and breadth of our board," Miller said.

 

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