What happened to Novell and who

Is this the end for Novell? Well it sure looks like it.

Novell was acquired by Attachmate for $2.2 billion. Don’t be fooled Attachmate is really private equity firm extraordinaire Golden Gate Capital Partners. Golden Gate Capital are masters of the leveraged buyout and have been gobbling up tech firms such as Sierra Systems, Geac Computer out of Toronto, Leica Microsystems, and others. They have more than $9 billion worth of assets. Attachmate is also controlled by Francisco Partners, and Thoma Cressey Bravo.
Geac is a great example of what can happen to a company like Novell. Geac Computer Corp. was a top end Canadian systems integrator, but after Golden Gate Capital bought them for US$1 billion, the Golden Gate funded Infor got Geac's ERP software. And, look at Infor now.
Novell was started back in 1983 by Ray Noorda, who was a true visionary. It was Noorda who saw a future with Linux earlier than most. Noorda gets a bad rap because the industry believed he had brain damage, but in fact he had Alzheimer’s. What most people remember about Noorda was his public feud with Bill Gates of Microsoft. But Noorda was a big personality in computing; coined the term “co-opetition” and “where there is mystery there is margin.”

Novell acquired Unix from AT&T in the early nineties along with WordPerfect a main rival of Microsoft. And, it had excellent products such as NetWare, GroupWise and eDirectory but it was always out marketed or out-maneuvered in the marketplace by Microsoft.

One of Noorda’s holding companies, The Canopy Group, own Linux vendor Caldera Systems and it was thought that Linux would challenge Windows, but he was never able to get it rolling because of a nasty fraud scandal which ultimately led to his ousting.

You can stay that this was a major element of Novell’s slow decline throughout the 2000s. Also a revolving door at the CEO’s office after Noorda did not help matters. The company’s last stand would be the acquisition of SuSe about seven years ago. IBM even made a major investment in the company

The company finally made peace with Microsoft in 2006 and the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant gave them an influx of cash and support.

The recession was also a crippler for Novell. They had to retreat from its annual BrainShare conference and reorganize the company. In the end, I guess it wasn’t enough.

As for Attachmate, founded in and around the same time as Novell, they have said it will split Novell into two units; one being SuSe, but a lot of the Novell technology will be sold off to…you guest it… Microsoft.  I wonder what Noorda, who died in 2006, would think?

Attachmate was an early player in the IBM terminal emulator marketplace. It made some interesting acquisitions in its history such as KEA Systems and The Wollongong Group, but they too struggled after the tech bubble burst. Golden Gate merged them with rival WRQ about five years ago. One interesting story about Attachmate is that its current CEO Jeff Hawn was sentenced to 10 days in jail for giving the OK to kill about 32 bison’s that wandered onto his Colorado ranch. Hawn pleaded guilty.
One quick hit before I go. Adam Belzycki has left direct market reseller SHI to lead the enterprise division of Lenovo Canada.

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