Infosys CEO quits, citing 'untenable atmosphere' created by critics

Former SAP man Vishal Sikka bails but will be interim CEO's boss

Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka has resigned, effective immediately, but neither he nor the company's board are happy he's going.

The former SAP executive's woes stem from anonymous sources accusing him of making lavish payouts to Infosys executives in order to secure their silence about improprieties on his watch. Some of Infosys' founders, who retain shares but no longer have active roles at the company, were also critical of his performance and the size of his personal pay packet.

Those rumours and sniping persisted for months until Sikka felt he could not continue to do his job while defending Infosys and his own reputation.

He left behind a letter [PDF] to staff and a 2,400 word personal blog post to staff. Both say he's had enough of the fight and they defend his record, especially the fall in staff attrition on his watch (from 23 per cent to 17 per cent), improved financial performance, Infosys successfully executing an AI strategy and the creation of what Sikka calls a culture based on “personal empowerment, working in an entrepreneurial environment.”

“I need this for my own work as well,” he wrote, and as he can't get it he's off to whatever comes next.

He'll stay on as executive vice chairman on an annual salary of US$1 until a new CEO is found, a process expected to conclude by the end of March 2018.

Infosys' board is happy for him to stay because, in a statement it “regrets his decision” to resign.

“In particular, the Board is profoundly distressed by the unfounded personal attacks on the members of our management team,” the statement says, adding that the Board “denounces the critics who have amplified and sought to further promote demonstrably false allegations which have harmed employee morale and contributed to the loss of the Company’s valued CEO.”

The statement also offers a glowing endorsement of Vikka's achievements as CEO, thanks him effusively for his service and suggests the company will persist with his his strategies.

But Sikka's letter to staff suggests they can expect more attacks, as he asks them to be steadfast in their support of management if new sniping takes place.

Sikka will at least be in a position to help any fightback: his temporary successor, veteran Infosys exec Mr. U. B. Pravin Rao, will report to Sikka, giving him a few months in which to exercise influence. ®

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