RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Suddenly the Street is spooked about Red Hat.

So hot in recent months with its stock soaring above $29 from below $6, Red Hat has given back 16 percent of its share value in less than 24 hours.

Kevin Thompson, the chief financial officer who has been with Red Hat since 2000, announced after the markets closed Monday that he is leaving the firm to pursue other interests and to spend more time with the family.

Even though he is staying until a replacement is found, the news sent Red Hat shares down $2.80 cents in after-hours dealing to $21.50. The stock did rebound a bit to $22 Tuesday morning before the markets opened. RHAT closed at $24.30, or down $1.36, during standard trading hours Monday.

Why the sudden change from bullish to bearish?

“Everyone hates uncertainty. Why wouldn’t they wait until earnings? This puts even more of a spotlight on Thursday’s report,” an analyst told

Prudential Equity Group analyst Brent Thill urged caution in a report cited by Reuters. “We recognize that optically Kevin’s departure looks bad,” he wrote, “however, at this point we have no reason to think there is anything below the surface that would cause Red Hat business any permanent harm.”

Thompson is one of a number of Red Hat executives who have been exercising and cashing out stock options this year as the price soared. According to EDGAR Online data provided by Yahoo, Thompson sold 60,000 shares for $1.4 million on April 7. He also sold more than 75,000 shares worth more than $1.4 million in January.