When a board of directors decides to dump a chief executive officer, they usually try to sugarcoat the firing so investors don't hit the panic button. But when the board of software maker PeopleSoft Inc. (PSFT) gave the boot to CEO Craig Conway on Oct. 1, it didn't pull any punches, saying it had "lost confidence" in Conway's leadership. Later, in press interviews and court testimony, PeopleSoft board members said they were worried that Conway had misled investors about the impact of a hostile takeover bid by rival Oracle Corp. (ORCL). Conway hasn't publicly commented on what happened. But it's a ignominious way to end his five-year run. The 49-year-old CEO engineered a dramatic turnaround at the Pleasanton (Calif.) company and drove it to record sales. But a merger last year with J.D. Edwards & Co. (PSFT) hasn't gone as well as many hoped. Meanwhile, the 18 months the company spent fending off a hostile takeover bid by rival Oracle were taking a toll on its sales and on Conway's relations with investors, many of whom worried that his fight with Oracle CEO Lawrence J. Ellison, his former boss, had become way too personal.
Don't weep for Conway, though. He received an exit package worth an estimated $3.2 million. With Conway out of the way, Oracle and PeopleSoft finally agreed on a $10 billion deal in the early hours of Dec. 13. It's expected to close as early as January.