Novell's highly ambitious vice-chairman has been booted out of office. Chris Stone, who joined the company in 1997, left in 1999, and came back again in 2002 has been a major driving force at Novell, in particular in its move toward embracing Linux.

According to an official statement, Stone has left "to pursue other opportunities". It is rather more likely however that he has become a victim of his own political manoeuvering.

Stone was officially responsible for engineering, product management, and alliances in his role of vice chairman of Office of the CEO. Since he was first hired by Eric Schmidt (now Google CEO) in 1997 though, Stone's role has been in directing strategy. That keen mind lent him a swagger that rubbed many up the wrong way and was constantly occupied with increasing his influence over the company while reducing others'.

He managed to sideline Novell's highly regarded CTO Glenn Ricart and position himself as heir apparent in the late 90s. Ricart left in early 1999, but Stone left in late 1999 to start up web services startup Tilion. He returned again though when Eric Schmidt stepped down as CEO and was replaced by Jack Messman.

Messman appears to be just as keen to retain his CEO role as Schmidt was however. "We thank Chris for his service to Novell over the past two and one half years," Messman eulogised in the company statement. "He made significant contributions to changes in our strategic direction, and his vision and energy will be missed. We wish him well." No successor to Stone has been announced and Messman has taken over his duties.

Stone, it would appear, was not as happy that his services were no longer required. "It is with some regret that I have decided to leave Novell and pursue other professional opportunities," he is quoted in the statement. "I am proud of my work and accomplishments at Novell, but now is the time in my career to do something else and I look forward to new challenges.

"Novell is strategically well-positioned to remain a viable and significant vendor in the enterprise software space. I wish the company and all of its outstanding employees nothing but success," he concluded. Stone had been on leave from Novell recently while doing an MBA at Harvard University.

Novell will hope that whatever Stone decides to do now won't overlap with its own plans, as it increasingly moves towards open-source.