July 8, 2008
There's change afoot at virtual server expert VMware (NYSE: VMW ) . Longtime CEO and co-founder Diane Greene has left the building, and the steering wheel is in new hands.
Greene's replacement is former Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) bigwig and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) executive Paul Maritz, who came aboard the good ship EMC (NYSE: EMC ) this February when the data storage specialist bought his cloud-computing start-up Pi Corporation. The sudden and unexpected change of decor in VMware's presumably fanciest corner office led to an immediate 25% share-price drop. Ouch.
No disrespect to Ms. Greene, who deserves much credit for making VMware the company to beat in the virtualization software space. In 2004, the company generated $218 million in sales, a mere fraction of the $1.5 billion revenue seen in the last 12 months. However, I think it's a mistake to assume that VMware will be much worse off without her.
Maritz was responsible for some of Microsoft's most successful products, such as Windows 95, Windows NT, and the entire Office line in the late 1990s. He was part of the five-person brain trust that effectively ran Redmond, and the Pi venture has proven that he still has what it takes to be successful in the cutthroat world of software. After a short adjustment period, I believe that the company will get right back on the hypergrowth track again, ready to take on Maritz's former employer throwing its best stuff VMware's way.
There are murky waters ahead, and a P/E ratio of about 67 times trailing earnings after the 25% haircut is still not cheap. But you'll rarely find Rule Breakers in the bargain bin, and this one has a firm hold on one of the hottest markets in the tech biz right now.