Violin Memory COO quits two weeks after CEO ousted

Violin is still searching for new leadership

Flash storage specialist Violin Memory has lost another senior executive: COO Dixon R. Doll Jr. has resigned.

The company makes flash storage arrays that it says can speed computing operations in data centers and cloud infrastructure, and is facing tougher competition from storage giants such as EMC and even former Violin distributor Hewlett-Packard as flash storage becomes increasingly commoditized.

Doll's departure comes two weeks after Violin's board ousted CEO Donald Basile as its stock tumbled after its September IPO, saying it thought the leadership change "necessary to enhance the management team's operational focus and ability to execute the company's plans for profitable growth." On Dec. 16 board Chairman Howard Bain took over as interim CEO while the company searches for a replacement for Basile.

Doll's departure appears less acrimonious. He is stepping down with immediate effect "to pursue other personal and professional interests," the company said Thursday. In a statement, Bain thanked Doll for his contributions to the company over the past four years, and for his role in building the current team.

The same statement also quoted Doll saying he felt now was an appropriate time to let new leadership chart the company's course.

Investors certainly believe that course needs recharting. Violin's IPO in September, priced at US$9 a share, raised around $146 million for the company. However, the share price dropped 22 percent on the first day of trading, closing at $7.02.

It fell again from $6 to $3.11 on Nov. 22, the day after the company announced its third-quarter results, reaching a low of $2.56 just days before Basile's ousting. In the days following his departure it climbed back up to almost $4.

The company has enough capital to continue operations for at least 12 months, it said in its latest quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It reported a third-quarter net loss of $34.1 million on revenue of $28.3 million. A year earlier, it had reported a loss of $25.4 million on revenue of $20.6 million.

The poor third-quarter performance has attracted a class-action lawsuit alleging securities fraud. Law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro has filed suit against the company, and is inviting investors to join the class action before a court deadline of Jan. 27.

Violin representatives did not respond to questions about the company's progress in its search for a new CEO, nor its plans to replace Doll.

There's no indication from Doll of what he plans next. He has already updated his LinkedIn profile to indicate his departure from Violin. The remaining current activity he lists on the profile is a directorship of BizzBlizz, a Violin customer co-founded by Basile and another Violin alumnus, Carlos "Art" Nevarez. Basile has not yet updated his profile on the business networking site to include his departure from Violin.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

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