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Infosys chief quits in rift with founders

Analysts said Sikka had helped steer Infosys back on track during a difficult period and his resignation reflected badly on the company.

MumbaiIndia, Aug 18 – Vishal Sikka has resigned as chief executive of Infosys, the Indian software giant announced Friday, as the growing acrimony between the company’s board and its founders burst into open warfare.

Sikka said the “increasingly personal” attacks had hit morale at the company, which has been trying to keep pace with rapid changes in the industry.

The surprise announcement hit Infosys shares, which were down by nearly 10 percent by the end of the day.

“Over the last many months and quarters, we have all been besieged by false, baseless, malicious and increasingly personal attacks,” he said in a statement.

“The distractions that we have seen, the constant drumbeat of the same issues over and over again, while ignoring and undermining the good work that has been done, take the excitement and passion out of this amazing journey.”

Sikka had come under fire in recent months from some of the founders of the company on issues related to corporate governance and salary increases for its top executives.

Indian newspapers on Friday quoted a leaked email from one of the company’s founders Narayan Murthy in which he said Sikka was not “chief executive officer material”.

Later Friday Murthy, who remains a shareholder, reportedly issued a statement saying he was concerned about what he called the “deteriorating standard of corporate governance which I have repeatedly brought to the attention of the board”.

Sikka told reporters after the announcement that the antagonism was taking a “heavy toll personally” and had become “untenable”.

The company’s board came out in support of the outgoing chief, accusing Murthy of waging a “continuous assault”.

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Analysts said Sikka had helped steer Infosys back on track during a difficult period and his resignation reflected badly on the company.

“Sikka’s letter indicates there was a directed attack on him leading to his resignation, which again makes the company look bad for investors,” IT analyst Baburajan Kizhakedath told AFP.

“It is a tough time for Infosys in the market and the board couldn’t handle investors, media or its own warring factions,” he added.

India became a back office to the world in the early 2000s as companies subcontracted work to firms such as Infosys, taking advantage of the country’s skilled English-speaking workforce.

The $150-billion IT sector remains one of the country’s flagship industries, but it is facing upheaval in the face of automation and US President Donald Trump’s clampdown on visas.

Industry body Nasscom recently called on companies to teach employees new skills after claims they had failed to keep up with new technologies.

Sikka was the first Infosys chief executive who wasn’t one of the company’s founders.

He is based in the United States, where the company earns nearly two-thirds of its revenue.

He will stay on temporarily as executive vice chairman to ensure a “smooth transition”. Infosys veteran UB Pravin Rao, currently chief operating officer, will take over as interim chief executive.

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Last month Infosys reported an increase of 1.4 percent in consolidated net profit year-on-year for the first quarter, marginally beating analysts’ expectations.

Shares in the company ended their day-long fall down 9.6 percent at 923.1 rupees ($14.3).

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