Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) threw analysts a curve ball when announcing earnings last month, disclosing in a conference call that long-time chief financial officer Charlie Peters was retiring. Peters himself delivered the news in “a personal note.”

When the “top guns” on Wall Street salute a CFO, he must have done a lot of things right. Their comments reflect respect on the Street for what Peters has helped the Hatters accomplish.

Eleven straight years of revenue growth. From $150 million to a projected $1.8 billion this current fiscal year. Now that’s REAL growth the Street likes. 

First, however, The Skinny admits to being late on reporting this story. Taking paid time off can be a hazard when it comes to reporting news. But rather late than never and out of respect for Peters’ work, it’s time to followup on Peters’ looming retirement after 10 years. (CFO doesn’t stand for Chief Fun Officer as we noted back in 2010. Remember the recession/depression?)

The Red Hat stock record is clear – quarter after quarter, year after year of growth even as the competitive environment continues to change and the Hatters embrace new trends such as the “cloud.” And who will ever forget the 2009 recession?

Don’t forget, too, that Red Hat’s top management has undergone substantial changes with Bob Young and Matthew Szulik stepping aside while Jim Whitehurst came from the outside (Delta Airlines) to take over the top job. Then there was the move from Nasdaq to NYSE in 2006, by no means something to be underestimated in complexity and difficulty. 

Also, let’s not forget all the acquisitions, the move of Red Hat’s headquarters to downtown Raleigh and much more.

Through all the turmoil and change, Peters endured, keeping everyone’s red fedora straight. His deep voice cuts through each conference call, his every word parsed for insight, meaning and significance.

How’s that for pressure? One wrong word and … boom goes the stock (up or down) as regulators monitor. Wow.


Whitehurst discusses the fun stuff – trends, products, opportunities. Peters is left to discuss the mundane but crucial currency trading impact, margins. And of course he gets to compile and predict the all-important revenues.

The salutes

So here’s what the analysts following Red Hat had to say to Peters after Whitehurst disclosed the retirement (Comments courtesy of a transcript provided by financial news website SeekingAlpha:

Jason Maynard – Wells Fargo:  “Hey guys, Charlie I am not supposed to wish you off but at least — can at least say you are going to live very big shoes for the next person.”

Peters: “ Literally that’s true.”

Maynard: “I couldn’t resist, I apologize.”

[The Skinny notes: Peters is very tall for your typical CFO, or any exec for that matter. He’s a former basketball player – something he takes great pride in.]

Some other comments:




  • Mark Murphy – JPMorgan: “Yes thank you Charlie. Congrats on the news and we will miss you it’s really been an incredible for whole lot of years.”
  • Kash Rangan – Merrill Lynch: “Charlie congrats on quarter opening your stock price are being at least a key part the Management team in helping quadruple the stock price so nice job.”
  • Siti Panigrahi – Credit Suisse: “Hey, Charlie. I also extend my congratulations, by the way it’s a great quarter, also it’s good to see so many numbers of large deals.”
  • Matt Hedberg – RBC Capital Markets: “Yes, thanks Charlie. I will offer my congratulations well. You certainly will be missed.”

The CEO weighs in

 Whitehurst added his own words of praise:

“Let me [pass on] for my sincere and personal thanks to Charlie for his contributions to Red Hat. Charlie’s is been working for a decade he is been a great partner for me in the executive team and he is been a key part of our success. So thank you Charlie.

“Looking forward is my intention to conduct a thorough and deliberate process to getting in the New Year to asset those break internal and external candidates and will plan to name a success when we think that time is right and the process is running it course. Roughly Charlie is provided so long runway to ensure orderly transition. So thank you again Charlie.”

Peters’ own words

Why retire? Peters told the analysts he wanted to spend more time with family. 

“Now I want to switch to a personal note, as we look at the next calendar year, I have begun to plan my retirement so I can spend more time with my family which now includes six grandchildren including two born in each of the last two quarter. I’ve been Red Had over 10 years now during which time the company’s revenue has grown from about $150 million to our current fiscal 2015 estimate are slightly less than $1.8 billion.

“I am extremely proud of what we’ve achieved including building the world class finance organization that we have in place. To ensure an orderly and well planned transition I am announcing tonight that is my plan to retire in the next 12 months. During which time I am going to work with Jim and the board to accomplish a smooth transition in the financial leadership of the company. I have also told Jim in the board that I will be there as long as they need me.”

So Peters isn’t taking off the Hatter trademark fedora just yett. The analysts are probably quite happy with that.

(Byt the way, you can read the full transcript at: