Proofpoint Snags Former VMware President Sumit Dhawan as CEO

Dhawan Is Proofpoint's 3rd CEO Since March 2022; Interim Leader Thomas Back as CFO
Proofpoint Snags Former VMware President Sumit Dhawan as CEO
Sumit Dhawan, CEO, Proofpoint

Proofpoint has landed top VMware lieutenant Sumit Dhawan as its new chief executive just days after the cloud and virtualization giant was acquired by Broadcom.

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The Silicon Valley-based email security firm said it liked Dhawan's track record of building security, cloud and end-user computing businesses, including over the last two and a half years as VMware's president, where he was tasked with driving more than $13 billion of sales. Dhawan is Proofpoint's third CEO since March 2022 and replaces Ashan Willy, 55, who resigned last month to pursue a non-cyber opportunity (see: Proofpoint to Get 3rd CEO Since 2022 as Ashan Willy Departs).

"Sumit brings a wealth of valuable experience and expertise in building category-leading, scaled companies and businesses," Thoma Bravo Managing Partner Seth Boro said in a statement. "We are confident his customer-centric passion and strong legacy of leadership will continue to carry Proofpoint's mission forward."

Thoma Bravo has churned through four permanent or interim leaders since taking Proofpoint private in August 2021 for $12.3 billion, which remains the largest deal for a pure-play enterprise cybersecurity company in history. Interim Proofpoint CEO Rémi Thomas will return to serving as the company's chief financial officer. Thomas joined the company in February after four years as CFO at Extreme Networks.

A Proofpoint spokesperson told Information Security Media Group that Dhawan is unavailable for further comment.

Sumit Dhawan's Path to Proofpoint

As VMware's president, Dhawan oversaw go-to-market functions including sales, customer success and experience, strategic ecosystem, industry solutions, marketing and communications. Before that, he was VMware's chief customer officer, leading professional services, technical support and customer success. Dhawan joined VMware CEO Raghu Raghuram in heading for the exits after the Broadcom deal closed.

Dhawan received $8.4 million in total compensation from VMware for the fiscal year ended Feb. 3, 2023, and $18 million in total compensation for the fiscal year ended Jan. 28, 2022. In comparison, then-CEO Gary Steele hauled in $9 million in total compensation during Proofpoint's final year as a publicly traded company. Steele left the company he founded in March 2022 to be CEO of data platform giant Splunk.

"Sumit brings a wealth of valuable experience and expertise."
– Seth Boro, managing partner, Thoma Bravo

Prior to joining VMware, Dhawan spent nearly two years as CEO of web application security firm Instart and helped lead the company's sale to Akamai. Before that, Dhawan spent nearly five years running VMware's end-user computing business and 14 years at Citrix, leading the virtualization and cloud behemoth's engineering, product development, marketing and general management functions.

"Over the years, Proofpoint has built an exceptional brand and is trusted by some of the world's leading organizations as their cybersecurity partner of choice," Dhawan said in a statement. "I'm honored to join a leader at the forefront of cybersecurity innovation and to shepherd its continuing and unwavering commitment to helping organizations across the globe protect people and defend data."

Will Dhawan's Arrival Usher in More M&A for Proofpoint?

Despite being Proofpoint's CEO for just 34 days, the company announced an acquisition during Thomas' brief stint as interim leader. Proofpoint agreed Oct. 30 to purchase Boston-based cloud email security provider Tessian to apply artificial intelligence to evolving threats, address common forms of data loss including data exfiltration and thwart misdirected emails and misattached files (see: Proofpoint to Buy Tessian to Infuse Email Protection With AI).

Tessian is Proofpoint's third acquisition under Thoma Bravo, coming 10 months after the firm purchased New York-based deception firm Illusive to add identity risk discovery and remediation and post-breach defense. Proofpoint's first deal under Thoma Bravo came in January 2022, when the company bought New York-based artificial intelligence-based data classification firm Dathena.


About the Author

Michael Novinson

Michael Novinson

Managing Editor, Business, ISMG

Novinson is responsible for covering the vendor and technology landscape. Prior to joining ISMG, he spent four and a half years covering all the major cybersecurity vendors at CRN, with a focus on their programs and offerings for IT service providers. He was recognized for his breaking news coverage of the August 2019 coordinated ransomware attack against local governments in Texas as well as for his continued reporting around the SolarWinds hack in late 2020 and early 2021.




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