What to Expect of Google and Softbank Star Nikesh Arora, Palo Alto Network’s New CEO
Nikesh Arora has found his next act. On June 6th, the business superstar is set to become the new CEO of Palo Alto Networks, a company that has proven itself as one of the brightest lights in the cybersecurity industry. (He spoke to Fortune about his latest career move here.)
For those who may not know Arora, here’s a sleek portrait Fortune painted a couple of years ago. He is a top operator whom Eric Schmidt, the longtime Google honcho, once described as “the finest analytical businessman I have ever worked with.” He is a billion-dollar bet-maker who has plunked down gobs and gobs of cash on ascendant, international startups, such as Didi (the “Uber of China”) and Snapdeal (the “Amazon of India”). He is a techie talent whom Masayoshi Son, the famously hands-on CEO of Japanese telecom conglomerate Softbank, once named his successor (before “Masa” backtracked, opting to control his baby for up to another decade).
Oh, and lest I forget: Perhaps most illustriously, Arora is a man whom Fortune once christened India’s “Elvis of business.”
Although Arora has little to no experience in cybersecurity, he has loads when it comes to building up corporate behemoths. As Google’s ex-Euro-boss and later chief business officer, he helped transform the ad-seller into the profit-minting powerhouse it is today. He helped instill discipline into the quirky Internet upstart, focusing its untamed energy into unstoppable commercial force. And during his brief stint at Softbank, which has since risen to become arguably the biggest player in tech investing, he made his mark indelibly known.
Arora’s track record provides some insight into what we can expect from his tenure at Palo Alto Networks. In the past year, the computer firewall-maker’s stock price has gushed 90%, but its losses have grown as well. I wager that Arora will aim to shore up the firm’s finances, but not before furthering a recent shopping spree, which has included acquiring Evident.io, a cloud security startup, and Secdo, a security task automator, over the past few months. In partnership with Mark McLaughlin, Palo Alto Networks’ departing CEO and enduring vice chairman, Arora is poised to continue shaping the company into a platform player, on top of which developers can create and deploy their own security software and tools. The aim: keep Palo Alto Networks ahead as the go-to standard for businesses seeking to stay secure as they transition to cloud infrastructures, like Amazon Web Services.
Already the impending succession has shown results. Palo Alto Networks’ share price—$209.19 at market close on Friday—rose more than 3% in after-hours trading. Investors are, it would appear, all shook up over the news.