* General Atlantic to sell entire stake in Kaspersky
* General Atlantic bought 20% stake a year ago
* Kaspersky tells employees no change in strategy
CANCUN, MEXICO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Russian tech entrepreneur Eugene Kaspersky, who runs the world’s fourth-biggest maker of anti-virus software, is parting ways with a group of U.S. investors who bought 20 percent of his company a year ago when he was considering taking it public.
His firm, Kaspersky Lab, will buy the stake held by Greenwich, Connecticut private equity firm General Atlantic and retire the shares, he said while attending a meeting for computer security analysts that his firm is holding at a resort in Cancun, Mexico.
He said that General Atlantic purchased the stake in January 2011 with the intention of helping him take the firm public, but that after months of review he determined he wanted to remain private.
“You don’t have to report to anybody else but yourself,” said Kaspersky, a well-known security researcher whose firm’s annual revenue tops $500 million.
He said he feared that going public would alter a unique culture at Kaspersky that has made it one of the world’s fastest-growing software firms.
“It is flexible. It is very, very innovative,” said the 46-year-old computer-programmer-turned-millionaire, who co-founded one of Russia’s few successful international technology companies. “I like it. I don’t want to change.”
It has grown rapidly over the past five years, gaining ground against more established rivals including the top three makers of anti-virus software: Symantec Corp and Intel Corp’s McAfee of the United States and Trend Micro of Japan.
Kaspersky and General Atlantic did not disclose terms of the transaction.
A year ago, General Atlantic paid $200 million to buy 20 percent of Kaspersky Lab, valuing the software maker at $1 billion, people familiar with the transaction told Reuters at the time. The firms declined to confirm those reports.
General Atlantic bought the stake from Kaspersky’s ex-wife, Natalya, who was then chairman of the board but has since stepped down from that post. She still holds a small stake in the company, according to Eugene Kaspersky, who is now chairman and chief executive and said he owns more than half of the company, which he co-founded 15 years ago.
General Atlantic declined to say whether it made or lost money on its investment.
“The company has achieved tremendous growth and success and is well-positioned for the future. We wish them all the best for continued success,” General Atlantic said in a short statement. Officials with the firm declined to elaborate.
The software maker also said it would buy back shares from several smaller, individual shareholders who it did not identify.
Eugene Kaspersky said in an email to his approximately 2,500 employees that he intended to instill more financial discipline in the Moscow-based company.
“That doesn’t mean we will be investing less,” he said. “It means we’ll be investing more effectively.”