Leadership matters. Changes at the very top of an organization can move the market. That's what happened to virtual computing expert VMware (NYSE: VMW) today: Share prices dove as much as 8% overnight on a generally very positive market day, mainly due to CFO Mark Peek waving bye-bye.

The announcement was made alongside two high-level promotions as VMware installed Carl Eschenbach as chief operating officer and Raghu Raghuram as executive VP of cloud infrastructure. In fact, Peek's departure was buried beneath the other two moves. If that was an attempt to stop investors from panicking over the CFO's exit, it's a pretty weak one.

CEO Paul Maritz gave Peek credit for taking VMware public in 2007. That laurel is significant because Peek is moving to privately held cloud-computing specialist Workday, taking another CFO position at a technology firm that has yet to go public. It seems obvious that Workday would recruit Peek for his proven experience in launching a successful IPO. It looks like salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) is about to gain a direct competitor on the public markets.

I'd add Salesforce to my Foolish watchlist in order to keep an eye on this development. Workday's emergence could have serious effects on Salesforce's valuation, but it's hard to say in which direction quite yet.

Peek will stay at VMware until June 1. It's an orderly exit that points to a personal choice more than internal strife. But VMware is still left with the very significant challenge of replacing a trusted high performer at the top of the corporate ladder. Investors got over the initial shock and VMware shares recovered to a more modest 2.5% drop later in the day. That's not exactly a brilliant buy-in window, especially since the stock still commands a towering trailing P/E ratio of 64. And yet, VMware is a favorite recommendation of our Rule Breakers team even at these prices. Maybe VMware isn't crazy-expensive after all.

Will Mark Peek regret leaving VMware just as its "hybrid cloud" model ignites another round of hypergrowth? Or will he strike it rich in his new role, creating another giant in the cloud-computing market, and never look back? Only time will tell. The cloud-computing market certainly is big enough to house several big winners.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies mentioned. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of VMware and salesforce.com. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bear put spread position in salesforce.com. 

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