The (Perhaps Not So Sudden) Change of CEO at Epicor

Joseph (Joe) L. Cowan has been appointed President and CEO of Epicor, a provider of enterprise software for multiple industries with 4,800 employees and 20,000 customers in more than 150 countries, surprising the market. Cowan, who brings extensive executive management experience in software and technology to Epicor, succeeds Pervez Qureshi, who is "stepping down to pursue new opportunities." Qureshi is also (let's not mince words) being ousted from his position as a director on Epicor's board.

The change in management will likely be pitched as the requirement for a new leader to handle a “growth and profitability phase” following the integration of acquired and merged business (Epicor, Activant, and Solarsoft).

Qureshi wasn’t well known for being a people person; he was mostly about Six Sigma process, quality, and cost control. Such an approach is fine for a while, but it apparently wasn’t moving Epicor forward in terms of growth and innovation, at least not fast enough. Even though it is privately held, Epicor still publishes quarterly results, and up until its Q4 (which just ended and is soon to be reported on), the $1 billion company was on track to lose $50 million this year. Rumor has it that Epicor had a strong Q4, but the writing was probably already on the wall for some change.

My concerns (apparently I'm not alone) center on Cowan’s track record. Most recently, Cowan served as President and CEO of Online Resources, a provider of online banking and full-service payment solutions, until its acquisition by ACI Worldwide in March 2013. Previously, he served as CEO of Interwoven, Inc., a content management software company, until its acquisition by Autonomy Corporation plc in 2009.

“Acquisition” seems to be a common thread. Further, Cowan has served in a variety of leadership roles at former Manugistics, EXE Technologies, and Invensys/Baan. These three companies were once market leaders who lost their innovative edge, market share, and cash, and were eventually sold to JDA Software (Manugistics) and to what is now Infor (EXE and Baan).

Epicor is by far a much stronger and prosperous company than these erstwhile miserable software companies (all sold from a position of weakness and for cents on dollar). But one should not be surprised that market observers are concerned and second-guessing the agenda of Epicor's owners. The market will certainly keep a close eye on Epicor’s next moves and any major shifts in its current strategy. I am not sure that Epicor really wanted this scrutiny and consternation. Let’s hope the company proves the skeptics wrong.
comments powered by Disqus