Tom Siebel Steps Down as CEO

The former chief of sales at IBM has taken the reins at CRM software maker Siebel Systems as the company’s founder, Tom Siebel, stepped aside amid pressure from anxious shareholders.

Mike Lawrie, who previously served as head of sales and distribution at Big Blue, where he worked for more than 25 years, will assume the role of CEO. Tom Siebel will retain the role of chairman.

Siebel said Lawrie was his company’s first choice.

“We’re very, very pleased that our first choice for the job ultimately accepted,” he said in a conference call announcing the changes. “We cannot imagine a more experienced or talented executive to assume the role.”

Familiar Face

For his part, Lawrie said he has no immediate plans to make drastic changes at the company, which has enjoyed improved financial performance in recent quarters after a difficult stretch that started in 2002.

“The intention is to stay with the same team, strategy and game plan,” he said.

Lawrie is no stranger to Siebel, having worked closely with the company as part of IBM’s channel partners program. Together, the companies did nearly US$1 billion in joint sales in 2003. IBM is also one of Siebel’s largest customers.

Siebel said he made the decision to split the chairman and CEO roles — an increasingly common move at tech companies, especially those that have opted for a hired-gun executive to replace founders — as long as a year ago.

Fending ‘Em Off

Analysts said the move to split duties is likely a first step that will lead to strategy shifts over time. Lawrie’s main task will be to help Siebel fend off hard charges for market share from such competitors as SAP, Oracle and PeopleSoft.

Gartner analyst Robert Johnson said the appointment reflects the interdependency between IBM and Siebel, which both have seen major growth in vertical industry segments as a result of their partnership.

Johnson told CRM Buyer that Siebel might benefit from taking a larger view of how it fits into the enterprise, and that Lawrie’s IBM background could prove helpful in this regard. He also noted that Siebel could expand its product offerings through acquisitions in key areas, a move that would allow it to use its sizeable customer base to further enhance revenues.

“The competitive reality in the application marketplace is that companies need to offer more and more to keep their customers from jumping to a competitor,” he added.

For her part, Forrester Research analyst Erin Kinikin told CRM Buyer that Siebel’s purchase earlier this year of hosted CRM vendor UpShot may be a glimpse at one possible route the company can take: greater emphasis on hosted solutions.

“You may also see more acquisitions,” Kinikin said. “Siebel has staked out a wide area for itself to maneuver in, and it has a number of possible directions it can take.”

The IBM Shuffle

Lawrie’s departure had a domino effect at IBM, which announced several changes of its own as a result. Specifically, several of the company’s business units got new leaders.

Chief financial officer John Joyce was replaced by Mark Loughridge, who had headed IBM’s Global Financing service, with Joyce taking the helm at Global Services, Big Blue’s largest business unit.

Joyce replaces Doug Elix, who will fill the position Lawrie vacated.

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