McAfee, CNET execs leave in wake of stock options probe

Stock options investigation leads to termination of McAfee president and resignation of CNET CEO

As a federal review into stock options irregularities continues, security software vendor McAfee has fired president Kevin Weiss and announced the retirement of CEO and chairman George Samenuk.

In an announcement on its Web site, McAfee said the company's board of directors named longtime IT executive Dale Fuller as its interim CEO and president, while Charles J. Robel will take over as board chairman.

A search for a permanent CEO is also under way by the company.

As part of a separate stock options investigation, CNET Networks also announced the resignation of CEO, co-founder and chairman Shelby Bonnie, who is being replaced as CEO by Neil Ashe.

In a statement, Samenuk said he announced his retirement Wednesday "in the best interests of the company, its shareholders and employees.

"I regret that some of the stock option problems identified by the Special Committee occurred on my watch," he said. "I am proud of the accomplishments of the McAfee team in serving our millions of customers during my tenure. I wish the McAfee team the best of luck in the coming years."

A committee of the McAfee board has been looking internally at the stock options matter, which has been under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission since June 7.

McAfee also announced that it will restate past financial statements to record additional non-cash charges for stock-based compensation expenses over a 10-year period to correct related stock options issues. The estimated amount of the restatement required to record such charges is likely to be in the range of US$100 million to US$150 million, according to the company.

In May, the company announced the firing of general counsel Kent Roberts in connection with the unfolding stock options probe. The company said Roberts' conduct in at least one related instance in 2000 was "improper."

Fuller was CEO and president at Borland Software for more than six years before joining the McAfee board in January 2006, according to the company. He was also CEO for WhoWhere? and general manager and vice president of Apple Computer's Powerbook division and vice president and general manager of NEC's portable computer division.

Robel joined the McAfee Board in June 2006 and served as a managing member and chief operating officer at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners from 2000 to 2005. He formerly worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he retired in 2000.

Ashe, the new CEO at CNET, joined the company in 2002. Jarl Mohn was named chairman of CNET's board. An internal investigation into stock options practices at CNET found several deficiencies, including some instances of backdating of option grants from 1996 through at least 2003, according to the company.

CNET will restate its financial results in connection with the reviews. Other executives also recently left the company, including the chief financial officer, the general counsel and the senior vice president of human resources, the company said.

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