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Why did Dell make a CFO switch?

January 24, 2014: 2:01 PM ET

DellDell's CFO is out after six years on the job. What happened?

FORTUNE -- Dell Inc. today made its first major management change since being going private late last year, announcing that chief financial officer Brian Gladden is leaving the company. His replacement will be Thomas Sweet, who had been serving as the computer-maker's corporate controller and chief accounting officer.

Michael Dell lauded Gladden's "many contributions" in a prepared statement, while Gladden said that "as Dell turns the page to start its next chapter, I have decided it is the right time for me to do the same."

It is entirely possible that Gladden does indeed feel that his job at Dell is done, and he's excited about some new opportunity (a Dell spokesman notes that Gladden once was a CEO, and aspires to be one again). And it's equally possible that Michael Dell is saddened by Gladden's departure, and tried to convince him to stay.

But let me propose a more cynical scenario: Gladden was pushed, either explicitly or implicitly.

Gladden was the company's chief financial officer, but Dell's financial performance consistently came up short of its internal projections. In fact, things got so bad during the buyout process that Dell's special committee paid The Boston Consulting Group to provide an independent financial analysis of the company's prospects. In other words, Dell could no longer trust the numbers they were getting from Gladden and his team.

At the time, I wrote that "it's kind of a wonder that CFO Brian Gladden still has his job."

Well, now he doesn't.

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Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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