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Shelby Bonnie, chairman and chief executive of technology news publisher CNet Networks Inc., has resigned following a review of the company’s stock-options practices, the company said Wednesday. The company named Neil Ashe as its new chief executive, effective immediately. CNet said a special committee established to investigate the company’s past granting of stock options found instances of backdating, a practice that can inflate the potential windfall to recipients when options are exercised. The company said a number of executives, including Bonnie, “bear varying degrees of responsibility” for deficiencies in CNet’s past options-granting process. Bonnie, a co-founder of the San Francisco-based company, will remain a member of CNet’s board. He apologized for the options-related problems in a statement released by the company. Ashe joined CNet Networks in 2002 and was most recently senior vice president of strategy and development. Jarl Mohn has been named nonexecutive chairman. He was previously president and chief executive of Liberty Digital Inc. CNet shares fell 80 cents, or 8 percent, to $9.10 in Wednesday morning trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The company also said it would delay filing financial reports and cut its guidance. It is one of many companies to run into problems by backdating options to days when the company’s stock price was lower, thus boosting executive payouts. At least 130 companies have disclosed SEC, Department of Justice or internal investigations into options practices, according to a review by The Associated Press. Other top executives also have been ousted or left their positions as a result of the probes. Mountain View, Calif.-based software maker Mercury Interactive Corp., one of the first companies to disclose problems with backdated options, last year dumped CEO Amnon Landan, as well as its chief financial officer and general counsel. Perhaps the most famous executive caught up in the options scandal is Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, the fugitive former CEO of software company Comverse Technology Inc. He’s in the southern African nation of Namibia, awaiting extradition to the United States to face charges of manipulating options. McAfee fires president, CEO retires Also on Wednesday, antivirus and security software provider McAfee Inc. said it fired President Kevin Weiss and announced that CEO and Chairman George Samenuk will retire after a stock options investigation found accounting problems that will require financial restatements. The company said board member Dale Fuller will serve as interim CEO and president in the wake of the management shakeup. Fuller joined McAfee’s board in January and has previously served as president and CEO of Borland Software Corp. Its shares rose 97 cents, or almost 4 percent, to $26.76 in early Wednesday trading on the New York Stock Exchange after the news. McAfee said it determined it will need to restate certain financial results to record additional noncash charges for stock-based compensation expense over a 10-year period. The charges are likely to range between $100 million and $150 million, the company said. “I regret that some of the stock option problems identified by the special committee occurred on my watch,” Samenuk said in a statement. The company also named Charles J. Robel as nonexecutive chairman. Robel has been a board member since June. McAfee said it has created a search subcommittee to find a permanent CEO and will look at both internal and external candidates. Santa Clara, Calif.-based McAfee disclosed in June that securities regulators had opened a formal investigation into the possible manipulation of the company’s stock options Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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