Nikesh Arora to Become CEO of Palo Alto Networks: ‘I Really Wanted to Be an Operator’
Nikesh Arora, a Silicon Valley fixture who helped build Google and then did a brief and tumultuous stint as president of Masayoshi Son’s Softbank, has finally landed his CEO job. Arora will become head of Palo Alto Networks on June 6, replacing Mark McLaughlin.
Arora told Fortune in an interview Friday that after the SoftBank experience, “I went through the process of thinking about what I would do next, and I really wanted to be an operator. I wanted it to be at a growth company in a growth business… And I wanted to make sure it was the right company with the right team. The more time I spent with Mark and the team [at Palo Alto Networks], the more I got excited. It’s a great culture, a fast growth company, and the opportunity is to continue to work with the team and scale and expand.”
Arora has no direct experience in cybersecurity. But Palo Alto Networks has been thriving recently, with nearly $2 billion in revenue last year, and a 90% surge in its stock price. While it is an increasingly competitive business, “They have been winning against all the players in the marketplace,” Arora said.
McLaughlin will remain at the company as vice chairman. He said he wanted to step down as CEO in part to spend more time with his family, which includes two adult daughters and an eight-year-old son. McLaughlin will have an operational role as an advocate for customers and an interface with government. He added that he will continue his work with the federal government on a cybersecurity “moonshot.”
“You’ll be hearing more about that this summer,” McLaughlin said.
While at SoftBank in 2015, Arora paid a visit to Fortune’s annual Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen. Watch his interview with executive editor Adam Lashinsky here.