Two CEOs quit over options problems
Exits of McAfee, CNet chiefs raises stakes of probe for other executives
SAN FRANCISCO -- Companies sullied by stock option chicanery seem intent on cleaning out their executive suites and boardrooms before regulators and prosecutors do it for them.
Yesterday, the scandal's fallout widened when the chief executives of both McAfee Inc. and CNet Networks Inc. stepped aside to atone for stock option shenanigans that will erase some of the companies' past profits. Santa Clara-based McAfee, a leading maker of computer anti-virus software, also fired its president, Kevin Weiss.
The abrupt departures of McAfee CEO George Samenuk and CNet CEO Shelby Bonnie follow last week's resignation of Apple Computer Inc. board member Fred Anderson -- the company's former chief financial officer -- after the iPod maker acknowledged its mishandling of past stock options inflated its past profits. Apple chief executive Steve Jobs held onto his job because an internal inquiry cleared him of any misconduct.
Most of the inquiries are focused on a technique known as ``backdating," which occurs when insiders look back in time for a low point in their company's stock price so the exercise, or ``strike," price of the options could be set at that ebb.
Neither McAfee nor San Francisco-based CNet elaborated on the reasons why they parted ways with their CEOs, but the financial problems caused by the improper accounting of stock options appear to be a pivotal factor.