Infosys directors told me Sikka is not CEO material, Murthy claims in email
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Infosys directors told me Sikka is not CEO material, Murthy claims in email

The contents of the email from Infosys Ltd founder NR Narayana Murthy raise the spectre of deep divisions on the board and, more worryingly, also raise questions about Sikka’s future at the company.

business Updated: Aug 18, 2017 07:23 IST
Anirban Sen and Varun Sood
Anirban Sen and Varun Sood
Livemint, Bengaluru
Infosys,NR Narayana Murthy,Vishal Sikka
12 June 2014 Bangalore : NR Narayana Murthy congratulates the new CEO Vishal Sikka of Infosys Ltd, in Bangalore. Photo by Aniruddha Chowdhury/ Mint(Aniruddha Chowdhury/ Mint)

Infosys Ltd founder NR Narayana Murthy claimed in an email to some of his advisors that he had been told by at least three independent directors of the company that Vishal Sikka was more chief technology officer (CTO) material than chief executive officer (CEO) material.

The contents of the email from Murthy raise the spectre of deep divisions on the board of Infosys and, more worryingly, also raise questions about Sikka’s future at the company at a time when he is already battling against time to orchestrate a turnaround amid several key top-level executive departures.

Mint has seen a copy of the email dated August 9 and also independently ascertained its authenticity from a company executive, a board member and a third person, all of whom asked not to be named; it couldn’t independently confirm the claims made in the e-mail.

“All that I hear from at least three independent directors, including Mr Ravi Venkatesan (co-chairman), are complaints about Dr Sikka. They have told me umpteen times that Dr Sikka is not a CEO material but CTO material. This is the view of at least three members of the board, and not my view since I have not seen him operate from the vantage point of an Infosys board member,” Murthy said in the email.

Murthy has publicly lambasted Infosys over the course of the past six to seven months for lapses in corporate governance (allegations the company has denied repeatedly). In the latest email, he went on to criticize the board for failing to uphold the company’s famed governance standards and not creating “checks and balances required in any well-run company.”

“I have nothing against Dr Vishal Sikka. I enjoy spending time with him. I have never commented about his strategy or its execution,” Murthy wrote in the email. “My problem is with governance at Infosys. I believe that the fault lies with the current board.” Murthy did not name the two other independent directors who do not have confidence in Sikka, who took over as CEO in August 2014.

Murthy did not respond to repeated requests for comment over email, phone calls and text messages.

Venkatesan declined to comment

Infosys did not respond to specific questions related to Murthy’s claims but reiterated that there had been no wrongdoing.

The board member who confirmed the contents of the mail also confirmed a separate email written by Murthy on July 8, highlighting several reasons why the board of Infosys should make reports of all investigations into various issues raised by whistle blowers public. One of these had to do with alleged irregularities in the acquisition of Panaya by Infosys. The board member declined to elaborate further, but shared Venkatesan’s reply to Murthy on July 14 that said there had been no wrongdoing.

On Thursday, Infosys said: “Each of the professional, exhaustive, expensive and time consuming investigations unequivocally found that the complaints were false and that there was no evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing. The Board has described the results of those investigations publicly, and most recently, on June 23, 2017 released publicly a report by Gibson Dunn, the investigating firm, that investigated the allegations (including alleged improprieties in the acquisition of Panaya) made by an anonymous complainant to SEBI in February 2017. The report was addressed to the Audit Committee and summarized their findings that there was no wrongdoing.”

It added: “The Board welcomes feedback, input, and criticism regarding substantive matters, but it denounces the repeated and unfounded personal attacks on Dr Sikka and the members of the Board. The Board will continue to judge itself, management and the Company based on substantive performance as established by demonstrable evidence, and not on unsubstantiated complaints by anonymous persons or media reports of statements made by critics who promote or rely on incorrect information.”

First Published: Aug 18, 2017 07:22 IST