Think no one reads newspapers or writes letters anymore in this digital age? Don't tell Sam Wyly, the Texas billionaire who's sold two software companies--most recently Sterling Software--to Computer Associates for a total of $4.48 billion. He's now leading a shareholder proxy fight to replace CA's board with his handpicked candidates and wants to put himself in Charles Wang's chairman seat. Wyly says CA CEO Sanjay Kumar visited his Dallas home before the Sterling sale to personally assure him any problems with dissatisfied customers and employees were in the past. So he sold, adding to his personal stake in CA that's now worth about $55 million. But when Wyly read a scathing New York Times article in April saying such problems continued, he decided to take action. (The fact that the same paper's stock tables showed that value of his CA shares had fallen by about half since the Sterling deal didn't hurt.) After lining up his slate of candidates, Wyly did what any software mogul would do: He typed out a "Dear Sanjay" letter explaining his intentions.
What's the price of fame? Maybe your technology talent. Enron has received a lot of way-to-gos for using the Internet to trade energy and other commodities. When Putnam Investments sent a search firm looking for a chief technology officer, it took note of Enron CTO Philippe Bibi, who last week joined Putnam, the fourth-largest mutual fund company, in the same role. Putnam liked Bibi's experience combining IT and business roles at Enron, as well as his financial background: The French-born London School of Economics graduate did stints at Lehman Brothers and Bankers Trust before heading to Houston with Enron. Tim Ferguson, Putnam's head of investments and technology, says executive recruiting at this level is always tricky. "Boston's a great place to live," he says, "but prying people out of good companies, especially when they're well-regarded, isn't an easy thing to do."
Microsoft is playing the name game with its products again. It said last week that its new server operating system, code-named "Whistler," will ship by early next year under the name Windows.Net Server. That's the name Microsoft was supposedly saving for the next server system after Whistler, code-named "Blackcomb." That seemed to still be the plan less than two months ago, when Microsoft officials said they would ship the Whistler code under the name Windows 2002. But that name's gone by the wayside. Instead, Microsoft decided its forthcoming operating system con-tains enough integration with the Internet-based services the company's developing to warrant the '.Net' nomenclature.
Top execs at software maker Autodesk irked a few employees last week when the latest cost-cutting measure included canceling a weekly beer-and-pizza party, a tradition that dates back to the company's beginnings in 1984. Autodesk says the parties have only been temporarily postponed, but a few thirsty engineers developed an internal Web site comparing the cost of the pizza, beer, and wine each week--about $500--to CEO Carol Bartz's $1.5 million salary and bonus last year. An Autodesk spokeswoman says she didn't expect such a reaction. "This was a move employees and employers decided together," she says. "I'm surprised that in this time of layoffs, a cost-cutting measure would be so poorly received."
Surprised about the loss of free beer? I wouldn't scoff at a complimentary cold one myself, but I'll settle for an IT industry tip. Send it to [email protected] or phone 516-562-5326 or fax 516-562-5036. If you want to talk about the perks you've lost, meet me at InformationWeek.com's ListeningPost, informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.