Infosys, one of the largest multinational IT services and consulting companies, is currently without a permanent CEO and managing director after the abrupt resignation of Vishal Sikka.
Three years ago, Dr. Sikka became the first non-founder to lead the 36-year-old company, which is based in India. Sikka has a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University and joined Infosys as CEO after 12 years with enterprise software-maker SAP.
In his letter today to the board of directors, Sikka wrote that his decision followed months of "false, baseless, malicious and increasingly personal attacks" that have hurt Infosys' ability to focus on growth and innovation. He also cited recent business challenges created by geopolitical developments, including U.S. leadership by President Donald Trump and last year's Brexit vote in the U.K.
Founded in 1981, Infosys has built a large global presence with nearly 200,000 employees, active in 45 different countries. The company's consultants help organizations with strategies for digital transformation, hands-on engineering and application development, knowledge management, and business process management.
In a followup statement issued today, the company's board of directors said it had accepted Sikka's resignation and appointed U.B. Pravin Rao, the chief operating officer, as interim CEO and managing director. The board said it plans to appoint a permanent replacement for Sikka "no later than March 21, 2018."
Drumbeat of Distractions 'Undermining Good Work'
"We have achieved much in the last 3+ years [during Sikka's time as CEO], and for sure we can all be proud of the powerful seeds of transformation that have already been sowed," Sikka said in his resignation letter. "But, the distractions that we have seen, the constant drumbeat of the same issues over and over again, while ignoring and undermining the good work that has been done, take the excitement and passion out of this amazing journey."
In addition to the external distractions Sikka named in his letter, the company has also been roiled internally, most recently by anonymous allegations sent to U.S. and Indian regulators in February. Also sent to The Economic Times of India and other news outlets, a Feb. 19 anonymous letter to India's Securities Exchange Board and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that the company's $200 million 2015 acquisition of the automation technology firm Panaya was overvalued and manipulated for personal gain by some Infosys leaders.
The Infosys board immediately refuted those allegations in a public statement, calling the letter's assertions "libelous" and "aimed at tarnishing the image of Infosys and its management." The company added in a statement today that investigations have found no merit in those allegations.
'Anguished by Allegations'
In a second statement released today, the board also pointed fingers at Narayana Murthy, one of the company's co-founders and former CEO, who continues to serve as executive chairman and chairman emeritus.
Referring to a letter released by Murthy today, the board said it "takes great umbrage at the contents" and blamed the co-founder for a "misguided campaign" of misinformation against the firm.
"I am extremely anguished by the allegations, tone and tenor of the statements," Murthy said in a letter reprinted by the Hindustan Times and other publications. "I voluntarily left the Board in 2014 and am not seeking any money, position for children or power. My concern primarily was the deteriorating standard of corporate governance which I have repeatedly brought to the notice of the Infosys board."
In his letter, Murthy also said that the company's investigation of the anonymous allegations in February was "not the way an impartial and objective investigation should be held." He added that he planned to respond to those allegations further "in the right manner and in the right forum and at the appropriate time."
Today's turmoil led to a dramatic drop in Infosys' stock values earlier this morning, although shares have since rebounded some.