After helping Novell reinvigorate itself last year through the endorsement of Linux and the acquisition of supplier SuSE Linux, vice-chairman Chris Stone has left the company.
In an announcement Novell said Stone had "left the company to pursue other opportunities". A Novell spokesman refused to comment further.
Stone, who was second in command at Novell to chairman and chief executive Jack Messman, was responsible for engineering, product management and alliances. His duties will be taken over by Messman for now.
In a statement issued by Novell, Stone said, "It is with some regret that I have decided to leave Novell and pursue other professional opportunities. I am proud of my work and accomplishments at Novell, but now is the time in my career to do something else, and I look forward to new challenges."
Dion Cornett, a financial analyst at Decatur Jones Equity Partners, called the departure "a negative for both [Novell] and the industry".
"We believe that Stone was instrumental in pushing Novell toward a strategy of capturing value from open-source software, as opposed to other members of management maybe more inclined toward giving away Linux to fuel demand for [Novell's] other offerings, such as identity management and directory services," Cornett said.
"We believe that the latter is a flawed strategy in that [Novell's] other products will eventually face commoditisation as well, and giving away the operating system not only sets a poor business precedent, but may even accelerate the commoditisation of products higher in the stack."
Cornett wrote that the $2m (£1.1m) severance package, plus health care, given to Stone "suggests that Stone was asked to resign". The severance details were unveiled in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Stone joined the company in March 2002 and has been a key leader in moving Novell into the world of open-source software and identity management. He had also worked at Novell previously, joining the company as senior vice-president of strategy and corporate development in August 1997 before leaving later for another job.
Stone was an integral part of Novell's decision a year ago to buy SuSE as it headed in a new business direction. After years of watching Novell lose market share to Microsoft and other suppliers, many Novell users and industry analysts saw it as a bold attempt to revitalise its middle-aged NetWare line.
Before acquiring SuSE, Novell also purchased Linux desktop supplier Ximian as it began building its open source and Linux holdings.
Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld
This was first published in November 2004