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Kumar's out, but users see a stable CA left behind

Kumar's out, but users see a stable CA left behind

Sanjay Kumar's departure from Computer Associates International Inc. Friday disheartened some users who liked his focus on improved customer service, but it pleased other customers worried about his oversight of the company at a time accounting irregularities were taking place.

Still, customers said they generally feel CA remains on solid footing without him.

CA abruptly announced Kumar's decision to leave the company this morning. He had been serving as chief software architect for the company since April, when he was transferred from his post as chairman and CEO of the software maker amid reports of accounting irregularities.

Kumar said in a statement that "it has become increasingly clear to me in the past few days that my continued role at CA is not helping the company's efforts to move forward. I understood that my stepping down as chairman and CEO represented a break with the past, but I have reluctantly concluded that as long as I hold any position, focus on past issues and my current role will continue."

Two longtime CA customers said Kumar's departure was a good idea, especially since top officials reporting to him were terminated in April following accounting irregularities discovered in 2000 and 2001.

"Frankly, when (Kumar) was ousted as CEO, I was surprised he was staying on with the company," said Erica Harzewski, database administrator at Guidant Corp. in Temecula, Calif. "... I felt that with all the bad financial stuff going on on his watch, why is he still hanging around?"

She said she had felt pressured to sign CA contracts several years ago by CA salespeople "with pressure from management above."

Another longtime CA customer agreed. "We don't need the distractions of the accounting irregularities, so I think he should fall on his sword and get out of the way," said the customer, who asked that his name and company not be disclosed. "He should start a club with former CIA director George Tenet."

Other users were kinder. "Companies using CA should be concerned about how all these management shifts affect products and support, but I don't see a big impact on the user level," said Carmen Huff, president of the CA North America Ingres User Association and lead database administrator at Alliance Data Systems Inc. in Dallas. "The excitement about open-source for Ingres and other products is not going to be diminished by what's happening with Sanjay.

"Sanjay was a big driving force for CA, but as long as users get what they need, Sanjay's leaving won't matter," she said.

At the same time, Huff welcomes the investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney's Office into the company's accounting practices. "Somebody high up has to watch what's happening at the top of these companies," she said.

Chris Poole, president of the Florida CA User Group and a senior analyst at Convergys Corp. in Jacksonville, Fla., said he hopes Kumar's departure "has no effect on customers." He credited Kumar with "dramatically improving the quality of products when he took over as CEO," pointing to Kumar's decision to pull CA workers off development of new products to produce a patch for its UniCenter line of management tools.

"Three years ago, UniCenter was a bit unstable, and you had to work through tons of patches," Poole said. "But with Sanjay's work and a (major) patch one year ago, they really improved the product and its stability."

Poole said the CA board needs to find a permanent CEO to replace interim CEO Ken Cron, "who doesn't just turn around and go back to just developing new products and let the end user suffer."

Richard Evans, senior vice president of Neways International Inc. in Springville, Utah, a maker of personal products, said he would have "loved to see Sanjay stay ... because his knowledge of technology was outstanding, and he was good in customer service."

CA Chairman Lewis Ranieri in a statement Friday suggested that Kumar's departure could help resolve some of the accounting issues that have plagued the company.

"The (CA) board is committed to reaching a settlement of the government's investigation into the company's past accounting practices as quickly as possible," Ranieri said. "We are working hard to take the remedial steps necessary to put this entire matter behind us. Sanjay's decision to leave CA was made in that spirit."

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