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Bean-counting outfit Sage appoints bean-counter as new CEO

Will arrival of Hare accelerate tortoise-like performance?

With its year-end results looming, Sage Group has confirmed the ascension of chief bean-counter, Steve Hare, to the lofty heights of chief executive officer.

Hare, who joined Sage Group in 2014 - the same year as recently departed CEO Stephen Kelly - was previously at investment outfit Apax Partners as well as putting in a few years as CFO at Invensys.

Kelly bade a fond farewell to the Sage team shortly after the company reported financial results that could charitably be described as flaccid. CFO Hare stepped in to keep his seat warm until a replacement could be found.

The Sage board is clearly impressed by Hare's abilities, as well as his delivery of the most recent trading update for the nine months to June 2018. The then CFO was able to point to a slight improvement in the group's fortunes, with organic revenue increasing by 6.8 per cent in the third quarter (delivering growth of 6.5 per cent in the first nine months of the year).

Having been unable to source an external candidate for the role, appointing a bean-counter to lead a company that makes software to count beans seemed the most natural thing in the world for chairman Donald Brydon, who said of the new CEO:

"It very quickly became clear through Steve's early decisions and his clear prioritisation that he is the right person to lead Sage."

Hare was obviously chuffed to bits with his new job, saying: "It is an honour to be asked to lead Sage as CEO," before issuing the threat that "we will succeed in our journey to becoming a great SaaS business."

Although Hare will continue to combine the roles of CEO and CFO for the time being, ledger-lovers pining for his old office will be delighted to learn that the board has "initiated a process" to appoint a fresh pair of eyes to squint at the group's accounts.

Megabuyte analyst Lee Prout described the hire of Hare as "somewhat as a surprise and, despite its stated ambitions, could be Sage’s way of admitting that moving to a pure SaaS model is simply too much to ask."

The issue is "twofold", he added - Sage was too slow to respond to the threat of "pure SaaS players", including Xero, that started to compete for the affections of SME bookkeeping software sector. And secondly, Sage underestimated the pace it could shift its wares from on-premise to an online service. ®

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