After less than three years at the helm, Sage North America president and chief executive Sue Swenson announced her retirement Wednesday, planning a several-month transition that will include her replacement by current Sage France CEO Pascal Houillon.

Swenson joined the major business application software maker in March 2008 and will officially depart in “mid-2011,” while Houillon will come to Sage North America in January to initially head up the Sage Business Solutions division, which Swenson had done since the departure of Jodi Uecker-Rust.

Swenson said she had mixed feelings about her departure as she claims she had become personally invested in the company, which is seeing comparatively better times than when she first joined.

“It really felt like the things I came in to do were well on their way. I never intended to make this a career, and it seemed an appropriate time to hand it over to someone who can take that leadership,” said Swenson. “We are now very competitive, and lots of things are in order and our direction is set. I’m pleased we can do this in an orderly way. We have some history of things not being done in an orderly way.”

Sage North America also announced Wednesday that the global revenues of its parent, the Sage Group plc, were $2.24 billion for the year ended Sept. 30, 2010, or flat compared to the prior year.

The company did add 252,000 customers worldwide during the year, however, bringing its total to 6.3 million businesses globally, excluding ACT! customers. The business added 123,000 customers in North America, where total revenue for the year ended Sept. 30, 2010, was $857.8 million, down from $889.4 million in 2009.

Swenson noted that the company had been challenged in trying to create one brand for all of its products, many of which came to Sage through acquisition. This, coupled with coming into the company at the beginning of a declining economy, was the greatest challenge in her term as CEO. She was confident these challenges are now behind the company, and in Houillon’s ability to take the reins.

“When I came to Sage, I went from telecom to software, and when I was approached, they were not looking for a software expert and they wanted a leader,” said Swenson. “My purpose was to consolidate the business around markets versus products and divesting assets that were no longer adding value. I believe I accomplished that. We will now have a proven leader come in and get acquainted. He has been with Sage for 10 years and has doubled business during his time. It’s also important to note that he has channel experience, and he can continue the journey we have been on.”

As for her retirement, Swenson said she plans to spend time with her husband, go back to school, and take some courses she never got to take during college, and become active in community service, while still remaining a shareholder in Sage.

Her final advice to Houillon was to “listen and learn, not be premature in his decisions,” said Swenson, adding that her first 120 days were spent learning about the company and listening to others. “Our people bring a wealth of experience and ideas,” she said. “Our focus on connected services to extend our on-premise software is going to be critical for our ability to grow the business.”

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