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Paul Cormier, who served as Red Hat’s CEO and president since 2020, will step down from his position to take over as chairman of the board.

Cormier will be succeeded by Red Hat veteran Matt Hicks, who now serves as the organization’s head of products and technologies.

At the Red Hat Summit in May 2022, there were rumours that Cormier, who has worked at Red Hat for more than 14 years, could retire shortly. Although the rumours turned out to be false, he is moving into a position that demands less of him. 

“I don’t think Red Hat would have become Red Hat without Paul Cormier”, responded Stephanie Wonderlick, vice president of brand experience and communication.

Cormier’s legacy

Wonderlick’s description is accurate. When Cormier was Red Hat’s vice president of engineering in 2003, he oversaw the company’s transition from its early, low-cost distribution, Red Hat Linux, to a full-fledged enterprise Linux distro: Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

This was a controversial choice. Later, Cormier said that many business models were not important to engineers at the time. They preferred working with Red Hat Linux. Switching to this new approach caused some internal turbulence in the business. More engineers remained than went, though. Users also didn’t like it one bit. They believed Red Hat had abandoned its first clients. However, enterprise clients saw it differently.

“Once RHEL was in the market, we had to support it full stop to make it truly consumable for the enterprise”, Jim Whitehurst, who took over Red Hat’s leadership in 2008, explained. When they did, Red Hat was well on its way to being the first pure-play open-source firm to reach the billion-dollar mark.

RHEL is now the leading enterprise Linux platform in the market. In 2022, more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500 companies use it, handling $13 trillion in global revenues.