John W. Thompson was the quintessential big company executive, fitting into the highly disciplined ranks of IBM and becoming general manager of IBM Americas, a 30,000-employee unit producing $37 billion in revenue.
After 28 years with Big Blue, Thompson established himself as a polished manager and decision-maker in the software industry.
"I dont have an entrepreneurial bone in my body," he once said. So he left a few with raised eyebrows when he resigned in April 1999 and joined struggling PC software maker Symantec.
Symantec offers Norton Utilities and, at the time, had one of the most popular Java development tools on the market, VisualCafé. But it also had growing competition on every front and seemed to be spinning its wheels trying to make up its mind what type of company it planned to be.
Thompson assessed the companys predicament, spun out VisualCafé into a new company -- WebGain -- in which Symantec retained an interest, and plotted a merger with Axent Technologies, an intruder detection and security management company.
The combination gives Symantec a stronger play than just frequently updated antivirus packages. Thompson says hes moving Symantecs product line toward greater enterprise server emphasis. He also will set up a service provider division, so antivirus products can be implemented for large groups of customers through anyone offering a service over the Internet.