Infosys CEO search: Ashok Vemuri rules himself out for top post
Ashok Vemuri says categorically that he is committed to building Conduent for the next few years, ending media speculation of his return to Infosys as CEO
Bengaluru: Conduent chief executive officer and former Infosys board member Ashok Vemuri on Wednesday said that he remains committed to his company, putting an end to speculation in the media on he being the front-runner for Infosys’s top post.
Vemuri, 49, who addressed investors during a post-earnings conference call on Wednesday, categorically stated that he was committed to building Conduent for the next few years at least, with no intention of jumping ship—a declaration that seemingly quashes media speculation that he is preparing to return to former employer Infosys as CEO.
“First of all, I want to emphatically state that I’m committed to Conduent, our clients, employees and shareholders. We are in the midst of a very exciting transformation journey that is progressing well and I have the support of my clients, my board, and my team. This as you all know is a multiple year journey and I intend to see that to completion. I am committed to building Conduent that is industry leading, profitable and market leading enterprise that will be sustainable over many years.I intend to be part of the journey for years to come and cannot think of a more exciting and professionally satisfying place to be than here,” Vemuri said in response to a question by an analyst.
Vemuri, who was CEO of iGate before it was sold to Capgemini, also indicated that he had rejected overtures from Infosys and said that he wanted to put a stop to any speculation on his future.
“Given the above, whenever I have been approached for assignments, which you have described (about Infosys CEO search), I have not engaged and rejected any such overture. As far as I’m concerned, that is the end of that,” said Vemuri.
Interestingly, Vemuri left Infosys in 2013 after his ambitions of becoming the company’s CEO were seemingly squashed at the time. Back then, his mentor and then Infosys chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy told him that he only had a “thirty-three percent chance” of becoming Infosys’s CEO.
A few analysts tracking Infosys had expressed their doubts on recent media speculation on Vemuri’s prospective return to Infosys.
“Our read of Mr. Vemuri’s employment agreement (and, more specifically, non-competition and non-solicitation clauses) gives us pause. According to the agreement, Vemuri is restricted from employment by “any business that is materially and directly competitive with any business of (Conduent) which represents more than 10% of (Conduent’s) annual revenues” for a period of 12 months after resignation. We think it would be very difficult for INFY to hire Mr. Vemuri and not violate this agreement,” Keith Bachman, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets wrote in a note, dated 4 October.
Infosys has appointed executive search firm Egon Zehnder to help it find a CEO after Vishal Sikka resigned on 18 August. For now, U.B. Pravin Rao is the interim CEO and managing director.
Vemuri’s latest declaration will now put the spotlight on another former Infosys top executive and board member, B.G. Srinivas, who is the group managing director at Hong Kong-based PCCW Ltd.
According to his employment contract at PCCW, Srinivas needs to serve a notice period of at least six months.
“The Appointment Agreement provides that Mr. Srinivas’ employment with the Company is terminable by either Mr. Srinivas or the Company giving 6 months’ written notice; except that the Company has agreed that it will not terminate Mr. Srinivas’ employment without ‘cause’ prior to the first anniversary of his appointment,” PCCW said in a filing to Hong Kong stock exchange, after Srinivas’ appointment in 2014.
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