Kaspersky Lab CTO departs, shakeup continues

Kaspersky Lab founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky (left) speaks with now-former CTO Nikolay Grebennikov at a 2011 analyst event.

Kaspersky Lab founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky (left) speaks with now-former CTO Nikolay Grebennikov at a 2011 analyst event. (Photo courtesy Channelnomics)

The management shakeout at security software vendor Kaspersky Lab ZAO has claimed its highest ranking person: Nikolay Grebennikov, the company’s longtime CTO and heir-apparent to CEO Eugene Kaspersky. Grebennikov is among at least four senior managers removed or who have departed in the last week.

In a low-key announcement yesterday, Kaspersky Lab appointed Nikita Shvetsov as acting CTO, responsible for leading the company’s product research and development. In a statement, Kaspersky Lab officials said Shvetsov brings more than a decade of experience in product research and development, and will be charged with expanding the company’s position in enterprise security and threat prevention technologies.

Officially, Kaspersky Lab says Grebennikov “is leaving” the company, without explanation, effective April 22.

Prior to Grebennikov, the highest ranking person in the management shakeout was Steve Orenberg, the longtime North America president and strategic advisor to global operations. He was replaced by Chris Doggett, who had been serving as head of North America sales and overseeing channel operations. Doggett’s new title is managing director of North America.

Unconfirmed reports say three to four other regional and global vice presidents in strategic roles have been removed from their posts.

The loss of Grebennikov is surprising — he was largely responsible for the development of the products and production engines that have fueled Kaspersky Lab’s global growth over the last decade. Under his guidance, Grebennikov fostered the organization that built rather than assimilated technologies that expanded Kaspersky Lab’s portfolio beyond consumer and SMB antivirus.

The departure of Grebennikov is more surprising as he was supposedly the CEO-in-waiting to founder Eugene Kaspersky.

Insiders at Kaspersky tell Channelnomics the management shakeup is part of a much larger, long-running consolidation of power. Since 2012, when Kaspersky Lab bought out venture capital investor General Atlantic, management functions and strategic directives have shifted away from the regions around the world to the company’s headquarters in Moscow.

Grebennikov’s departure comes just as Kaspersky Lab announced a major push into the enterprise security segment. Kaspersky Lab has spent much of the last two years advocating the need for better security in industrial systems and critical infrastructure. It was among the first security vendors to identify weaponized malware, such as Stuxnet and Gauss, which exploited vulnerabilities in SCADA systems.

The impact of these management departures and changes remain undefined. While Kaspersky Lab remains a solvent and viable company, its progress toward displacing Trend Micro Corp. as the world’s third largest security vendor has stalled. Kaspersky Labs has a large and productive channel network; Doggett tells Channelnomics he is actively looking to install new sales leadership in North America to facilitate regional double-digit growth.

This article was originally posted on Channelnomics.com.