Invested: WANdisco appoints turnaround CEO 

WANdisco investor Stephen Kelly, who called out the company’s management when the sales misreporting crisis erupted in mid-March, has been appointed as the company’s new CEO by its new chairman, who has already appointed a new CFO.

The data replication business alleged it discovered a single salesperson had booked fake orders and caused inflated revenues of $24 million for calendar 2022. This caused a shares suspension on the AIM market, and chairman, co-founder and CEO Dave Richards and CFO Erik Miller resigned. Ken Lever then became the interim exec chair and CEO. Forensic accountants revealed the revenues should actually have been $9.7 million. Sales bookings of $127 million should have been $11.4 million once the fakery was excluded. A 30 percent headcount reduction is underway to cut costs.

Exec chair Ken Lever said: “The Board is delighted to have secured someone of Stephen’s calibre and track record to lead WANdisco forward.  All of us remain squarely focused on advancing the workstreams that are designed to lift the current suspension in WANdisco’s shares and position the Company for long term success.”

He had already appointed Ijoma Maluza as the new CFO. 

Stephen Kelly

Kelly becomes interim CEO tomorrow and will be made formal CEO when (and if) WANdisco share trading resumes. He said: “I am a firm believer in the potential of WANdisco’s technology to become a market leader and, whilst there is much work to be done, I have relished my previous UK listed turnaround roles and am proud of the successful transformations, profitable growth and value creation they have delivered.”

“I believe Ken has started the rescue, recovery and rebuild process well and, as a team, we have the opportunity to build a high-quality, global UK growth business delivering for all stakeholders.” 

Kelly has an initial focus on customers, channel partners and alliances, the sales organisation, go-to-market strategy and building the sales pipeline. That’s understandable as all customers, channel partners and WANdisco’s own salespeople will be apprehensive about the company’s prospects and facing uphill talks with customers. Salesforce, partner and customer attrition is a real risk.

Kelly joined startup Chordiant in 1997 and became CEO of this NASDAQ listed business between 2001 and 2005. He was CEO of MicroFocus plc between 2006 and 2010, followed by a period as Chief Operating Officer of the UK government until 2014. He then took on the CEO role at Sage, leaving in 2018.

In a LinkedIn post Kelly said: “I loved my times at Sage & Micro Focus leading mammoth turnarounds with fabulous teams. So I am excited to be joining Wandisco. As you know, I am passionate about UK Tech growth and success and feel bad when UK tech companies stumble on the global stage. At WANdisco, the technology deserves global market leadership. From the outside, it feels like a ‘root & branch’ turnaround to earn the right to play.”