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Fusion-io founders quit, shares slump

(Reuters) - Memory drive maker Fusion-io Inc said founders David Flynn, the chief executive, and Rick White, chief marketing officer, have resigned, sending the company's shares down 27 percent to their lowest ever.

Director Shane Robison will succeed Flynn effective immediately, the company said in a statement.

Fusion-io said its founders quit to pursue "entrepreneurial investing activities," but did not specify what these were.

The company said that the departures were not related to any issues regarding its financial statements or accounting policies and practices.

"While management indicated that the move has nothing to do with its accounting, the timing of the transition could raise some red flags as it could point to some disagreement over investment decisions or strategic direction of the company," Mizuho Securities analyst Abhey Lamba said in a research note.

Flynn and White will both serve as advisers to the company and remain on the board for the next 12 months, Fusion-io said.

Flynn, 43, who has been chief executive for two years, took the company public in June 2011 at $19. Fusion-io's stock was down at $13.63 on Wednesday morning. It had peaked at $41.69 in November 2011 but has fallen sharply since then.

Fusion-io, which has consistently reported strong revenue growth since its IPO, said in April that revenue for the January-March period declined 7 percent.

"We do not think it is a good sign to see co-founders leaving so soon after going public," JP Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz said in a research note.

"Also, Mr. Flynn has been well regarded as Fusion-io's CEO and well respected in the data center ecosystem."

Fusion-io makes solid state memory drives using NAND flash technology and counts Facebook Inc and Apple Inc among its key customers. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is Fusion-io's chief scientist.

Flynn served as chief architect software engineer of Linux Networx and founded the Utah research and development satellite office of Oracle Corp before setting up Fusion-io.

Robison served as chief strategy and technology officer of Hewlett-Packard Co before leaving in November 2011.

"(Robison) brings a mixed track record from his time at HP, where he led the M&A strategy and was in part responsible for the Palm and Autonomy acquisitions," Moskowitz said.

Mizuho's Lamba, who views the company as an attractive takeover target, said the transition could raise questions about the company's ability to continue to lead the flash storage market.

Fusion-io last month forecast fourth-quarter revenue ahead of analysts' estimates. The company reaffirmed its outlook on Wednesday.

The company's shares fell as low as $13.13 in late morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Sayantani Ghosh in Bangalore; Editing by Supriya Kurane)

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