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Did Red Hat’s CTO Walk – Or Was He Pushed?

Brian Stevens formerly of Red HatIt’s hard to believe the official story coming out of Raleigh, that CTO Brian Stevens abruptly resigned his position at Red Hat on Wednesday “to pursue another opportunity.” The company is being mainly mum on the subject, only offering a terse three sentence announcement on their website.

Red Hat seems to want us to believe Stevens left on his own in pursuit of the American dream. Maybe, maybe not. From the way the story has unfolded, it seems highly unlikely that Stevens’ decision to leave was entirely his.

ZDNet’s Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is a North Carolina resident who usually has a pretty good idea of the happenings within Red Hat’s Raleigh headquarters. In his initial report on this story, he seems to have been as surprised by this move as anyone else.

“No-one among the rank and file at Red Hat seem to have seen this coming. In a move the Linux giant’s staffers said was ‘shocking’ and a ‘punch in the gut,’ long-time Red Hat chief technology officer Brian Stevens has resigned.”

He went on to say that some within Red Hat speculate that tensions between Stevens and Paul Cormier, Red Hat’s president of products and technologies, might be responsible, although there doesn’t appear to have been any current argument between the two. Cormier will take over Stevens’ duties until a replacement is found.

Vaughan-Nichols also said that others at Red Hat had opined that Stevens might’ve left because he’d risen as high as he could within the company and with no new advancement opportunities open to him, he’d decided to move on. If this was the case, why did he leave so abruptly?

Stevens had been at Red Hat for nearly ten years. If he was leaving merely because “I’ve done all I can here and it’s time to seek my fortune elsewhere,” we’d expect him to work out some kind of notice and stay on the job long enough for Red Hat to find a suitable replacement. Turning in a resignation that’s effective immediately is not the ideal way to walk out the door for the last time. It smells of burning bridges.

If he did leave on his own without any prompting from management, his timing was all wrong. According to Lauren K. Ohnesorge with the Triangle Business Journal, Stevens stands to lose a substantial amount of money by leaving now.

“In October of 2013, he was promoted to both executive vice president, CTO and “executive officer” status, a move that increased his yearly salary base from $413,058 to $480,000 per year. It also included a non-compete clause, as well as a long-term cash award with “a total potential value of $6 million. The bonus would be paid in four installments, with $1.5 million coming directly with the promotion in October. He was set to receive another $1.5 million this October but, according to an agreement, the resignation axes that payout.

“Additionally, his resignation also impacts the 93,875 restricted stock awards he received with the promotion, as they include a four-year vesting period.”

In other words, if Stevens had stuck around until October, he would have walked out the door $1.5 million richer. If he’d stuck around another three years, he would’ve gained another $3 million in bonuses plus nearly $6 million in stocks at today’s valuation.

None of this matters, of course. Stevens will no doubt land on his feet and do just fine. Red Hat will doubtlessly continue to prosper in his absence. It’s just curious, that’s all.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux.

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2 comments to Did Red Hat’s CTO Walk – Or Was He Pushed?

  • Abdel

    Best two concluding sentences: ” Stevens will no doubt land on his feet and do just fine. Red Hat will doubtlessly continue to prosper in his absence.”

  • […] Back on August 27 when Red Hat announced that CTO Brian Stevens had left the building and was no longer in their employ, rumors began flying as people began to wonder what happened. His resignation came without warning and Red Hat wasn’t forthcoming with anything, other than a terse message wishing him well, so it’s only natural that some people began to suspect that some kind of shakeup was in play. Indeed, I was pretty sure that he hadn’t left voluntarily but had been pushed through the door. […]