With the departure of chief executive officer William H. Harris, Intuit Inc. loses the day-to-day leadership of a key navigator of the company's journey into the Internet age.
Intuit announced late Thursday that Mr. Harris would be temporarily succeeded by chairman William V. Campbell and would remain on Intuit's board.
In an interview Friday, Mr. Harris said he was stepping aside to pursue more hands-on, entrepreneurial tasks, though he has not decided what those will be. He dismissed reported rumors that he had disagreed with other board members over how aggressive Intuit should be in acquiring smaller companies, and he said he and Intuit's other leaders were "highly aligned in terms of the strategy and direction of this company."
Mr. Harris is regarded as instrumental in identifying the need for Intuit, which built its reputation as a provider of financial software for personal computers, to embrace the Web as the next frontier for consumer financial management.
"He was the main driving force behind the Internet initiatives," said Steve Shepich, a securities analyst with Olde Discount Corp. in Detroit. His departure "is not a good thing for them."
Christopher Musto, director of financial services at Gomez Advisors Inc. of Lincoln, Mass., said, "Bill Harris and (Intuit founder) Scott D. Cook, to their credit, recognized the impact of the Web on their business model. Intuit was in the business of constantly updating shrink-wrapped software, but they realized the Web site was the business."
Though most of Intuit's revenues still comes from software such as the flagship Quicken, Mr. Musto said that the company has a framework firmly in place for moving personal financial services to the Web and creating a well-known portal in Quicken.com.
"The company is doing phenomenally well," Mr. Harris said. "As a result, my personal role becomes much more administrative, managerial and, sometimes, ceremonial. What I like best is being close to the firing line, being involved in the hands-on development of products." With the company having just wrapped up a fiscal year, the timing was right to make that move, he said.
He and Mr. Cook cited the company's recent financial performance as a testament to the success of the transition that Mr. Harris helped engineer. Mr. Harris steps down after the company reported a 43% increase in revenues, to $847.6 million in the most recent fiscal year.
Intuit's stock price has also soared, though the markets delivered a negative response to Thursday's announcement. Intuit shares were down $9.9375 to $90.625 at midafternoon Friday.
Observers said Mr. Harris' job was a tough one, leading Intuit through the tricky waters of establishing a financial information portal while not angering banks.
"I believe we have made the most difficult parts of the radical transformation of this company to the Internet. Our relationships with banks and other financial institutions are pretty good," Mr. Harris said.
Mr. Cook, who remains chairman of Intuit's executive committee, said in an interview that the company would continue to benefit from Mr. Harris' vision because of his decision to remain on the board. "Bill is absolutely brilliant and strategic," he said.