Sage Group has announced that Sir Julian Horn-Smith, the non-executive chairman it appointed less than a year ago has stepped down with immediate effect due to ‘differences in style and culture.’
The former deputy chief executive of Vodafone joined the Sage board as a director in February 2006 and was appointed as part-time non-executive chairman in August, shortly after he retired from Vodaphone.
Sage stressed that there were no arguments or differences over strategy or future direction, while in a statement Horn-Smith said: Sage is a truly outstanding company and it is with great regret that I have decided to leave. After careful consideration the board agreed that the differences in style and culture meant that change was necessary. I felt that the best solution was for me to stand down as chairman.
The company is in the middle of a major transformation program aimed at broadening its market in terms of geography and vertical sectors, as well as branching out from its accountancy roots through a move into complementary business software areas. Acquisitions and the move to integrated suites are key execution strategies.
In an interview with Computer Business Review earlier this year, Paul Stobart, CEO of Sage UK, acknowledged the scale of change required.
It represents massive change internally. Everyone has to take the blinkers off and think laterally and more creatively. I have not underestimated the change agenda we have within Sage, he said.
Current non-executive director Tony Hobson has become acting chairman while Sage launches a search for a long-term replacement.
From the statements made it appears that the objective is not in question but that the style in which it is being achieved may be the issue. Despite its size and financial success – pre-tax profit rose 14% to GBP221m last year on revenue that rose 22% to GBP936m – Sage has never been known as a leading-edge company and its style has always been cautious. By contrast, Vodafone was at the vanguard of the dynamic and fast-moving mobile phone market and Horn-Smith played a key part in its domestic and overseas expansion.