Citrix stock soars on news that its 21-year CEO is finally, really going to retire -- and an activist investor is in

Citrix Mark TempletonCitrixCitrix CEO Mark Templeton

Citrix stock is up about 10% on Wednesday, the highest it’s been in about three years.

Investors are cheering the news that 21-year CEO of Citrix Mark Templeton is retiring, the company is giving one board seat (and possibly two) to activist investor Elliott Management, and is planning to sell its GoTo family of webconferncing products (something Elliott was pushing for).

This on top of reporting a decent quarter Tuesday that beat expectations: Q2 earnings per share of $US1.00 was above the 82 cents expected, and revenue of $US796.76 million (+1.9% over the year-ago quarter) was a beat by $US6.39 million.

The company raised its profit outlook, too, now expecting$3.65 – $US3.75 EPS for the year, up from $US3.55 to $US3.60 EPS, on $US3.22 billion – $US3.25 billion in revenue.

Templeton, 62, announced plans to retire early last year after a brutal 2013, a year in which his son died. But by June, he changed his mind and made “a multiyear commitment” to stay on as CEO.

Now, after wrangling with Elliott, Templeton says that when Citrix appoints a CEO replacement, he won’t be staying on the board either.

Elliott’s Jesse Cohn is joining the Citrix board immediately, replacing Asiff Hir, a former chief information officer who rose to COO of TD Ameritrade and is now working at HP as its “chief restructuring officer.”

Citrix employeesCitrixCitrix employees

Elliott is also helping Citrix find another independent board member.

The company has been in turmoil for more than a year and did a big restructuring earlier this year, included laying off 700 employees, 200 contractors. Top leaders have been leaving, too.

Employees loved Templeton for creating a warm-and-fuzzy culture at Citrix. He had an 83% approval rating on Glassdoor and despite the turmoil, his high approval remained steady.

“The CEO (Mark Templeton) is a man you can die for,” one Citrix director wrote on Glassdoor about him.

But another director saw what Elliott saw, that the company was having trouble with focus and execution.

“Many acquisitions made by the company failed to yield any real fruit. There are certainly exceptions such as NetScaler and GoTo, but there are many more dead ones that lay it the wake of Citrix. The board should have gotten an operational/execution CEO who has taken a company in excess of $US5-10B. Mark T is a great visionary though,” wrote this company director.

So while investors rejoice, the search for a new CEO is officially back on.

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