Cabletron Systems announced last week that Craig Benson, its embattled chairman, president and CEO, has resigned from the company he co-founded in a New England garage almost 20 years ago.
Benson has been replaced by Piyush Patel, Cabletron's senior vice president of worldwide engineering, and former CEO of YAGO Systems, a router start-up that Cabletron acquired last year. Benson will remain on Cabletron's board of directors.
Benson co-founded Cabletron in 1983 with the eccentric Robert Levine, who stepped down as Cabletron chairman in 1997. Benson and Levine grew the company to $US1.4 billion in annual sales, but it has been stuck at that figure for the past few years. Benson said he was ready to hand the reins to someone "who can lead the company into the new millennium".
After losing market share to Cisco in the enterprise, and several lacklustre and money-losing quarters, Benson fell into disfavour with Wall Street. Though Cabletron won industry accolades for its bulletproof technology, Benson was criticised for lacking a coherent plan for company growth, including regaining enterprise market share and addressing hot new growth markets such as service providers and small and mid-size businesses.
Late last year, many Cabletron watchers were calling for a change of leadership at Cabletron, either through Benson's resignation or the sale of the company. Benson resisted both.
Cabletron's Australian managing director Ian Fewtrell did not believe the CEO change will change his plans to remain focused on the local enterprise and service provider markets.
Fewtrell said an e-mail Benson sent to all Cabletron staff indicated his decision to quit is because "at 46, I'm ready for retirement".
Analysts looked favourably upon last week's events.