Steve Bennett, who has served as president and chief executive at tax and financial software conglomerate Intuit Inc. since 2000 and led the company to record growth during his tenure, announced that he will step down from those posts at the end of the year.The company did not give a reason for the resignation, but released a statement from Bennett saying, "Now, with eight successful seasons under my belt, the company solidly positioned for the future, and a CEO successor ready to lead the company, it's the right time for me to take some time off and explore the next challenge in my life."

Bennett will remain a member of the board and serve as a consultant through July 2008, when Intuit's fiscal year ends.

Brad Smith, 43, senior vice president and general manager of Intuit's Small Business Division, was named as Bennett's successor. He officially replaces the 53-year-old Bennett on Jan. 1, 2008.

Bennett came aboard at Intuit after serving for 23 years at General Electric.

Under Bennett's tenure, the company nearly tripled its revenue and quadrupled its earnings. When he arrived, he immediately strengthened the company's core operations via a series of senior-level hirings that brought such people as Sherry Whiteley, Tom Allanson, Lorrie Norrington, Bill Ihrie and Dan Manack to the company. He also bolstered the training of Intuit's management staff, mapping out a leadership course that outlined management expectations.

However, Intuit has also faced challenges, including a database glitch that temporarily kept 200,000 TurboTax users from being able to file their taxes electronically at the end of last tax season and forced Bennett to issue an apology and refund more than $15 million in fees.

His successor, Smith, who came to Intuit from payroll giant ADP, took over the Small Business Division, which includes Intuit's QuickBooks software, in May 2005. He will continue in that role through the end of December while working with Bennett on the transition.

At Intuit, Smith has also worked as vice president and general manager of the Accountant Central unit and developer network in Plano, Texas, and he ran the consumer tax group in San Diego.

The announcement was the second major change in two months for Intuit. In June, the company shifted chief financial officer Kiran Patel to general manager and senior vice president of the company's consumer tax business and its flagship TurboTax product, succeeding Brad Henske.

Intuit's top-level succession announcement also coincided with the release of its quarterly and year-end financials.

Intuit posted a fourth-quarter loss of $13.6 million, versus a loss of $18.9 million for the year-ago period. Meanwhile, fourth-quarter sales rose 31 percent, to $433 million.

For fiscal 2007, Inuit said that profits rose 6 percent to $440 million, compared with its 2006 year-end results. Company-wide revenue grew 17 percent in fiscal 2007, to $2.67 billion. Revenue from its QuickBooks unit rose 11 percent, to $598.2 million, while revenue from Intuit's consumer tax division spiked 15 percent, to $813 million.

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