Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Final Word

This week's Writer's Challenge from Mama Kat tickled my fancy with the topic:
3.) Tell a story about a moment in time when you were so happy you were you and not someone else in the room.
(inspired by Baby)

This tale harks back to a time more than a decade ago. One of my tasks as CTO of a certain company was to advise the CEO and Chairman of the Board, Mr. S, on the soundness of proposed technical acquisitions. Mr. S was a self made billionaire and had quite a few quirks and oddities. In addition, once he made up his mind, nothing on this earth was going to change it. (This is the same person I once accused of having "the brains of a kumquat" during a meeting.)

I had been tasked to look at a couple of possible acquisitions with related technologies in an emerging market. Company A was in Toronto and Company B was in St. Louis. So after visiting both companies and spending a few days going over their technologies, I came to the conclusion that the ideal would be to acquire both of them and combine their technologies. Company A had a more automated and user friendly approach to solving the problem; Company B had a much more complete solution but had almost no automation or end-user tools. Put the two together and one had a great solution that could capture what was then an exploding market. But knowing Mr. S and his strong belief in consulting rather than package solutions, the choice for him was going to be clear.

Sure enough, Mr. S decided that we would visit the St. Louis company and see if they were amenable to being acquired. (Given that the company was broke, there was little doubt in my mind that they wanted to see a cash infusion, the question was were they realistic as to amount and conditions.) We arrived at Company B and spent several hours in the general touchy-feely sizing up before getting down to work. A couple of offers and counter-offers were exchanged. Finally Mr. S pulled our VP and me out of the room for a heart to heart about the value we put on the technology.

So standing in the hall outside the meeting, I opined that I thought the base technology with the continued employment of a couple of key people was worth about $5 million and up to $8 million if all the current employees came along. The VP with us agreed and felt that joined with the consulting arm of the company, a couple of hundred million dollars a year of revenue could be generated. 

Mr. S said little, but we all walked back into the conference room interested in seeing what Mr. S. was going to do. On the other side of the table sat the three principals of Company B, all anxious and hopeful. The financial position of their company pointed to desperation.

Mr. S. took a piece of paper, wrote a number on it, and slid it face down across the table with the words "This is my number. What is your answer?"

The three guys from Company B huddled and then made a major mistake. They thought Mr. S was still open to negotiation and tried to come back with yet another counter-offer. Mr. S simply motioned to us to go and walked out of the room. My last view of the Company B guys was with the utter look of shock and devastation on their faces. It became complete as it sank in that Mr. S would not be saving the company and that they would be out of business by month's end.

That was the moment that I was extremely happy to be me and not one of the three guys form Company B.


  1. I think I would be glad to be anyone else other than those guys at Company B, even if it was a decade ago!

  2. Well, all I can say is...sucked in fellas!

  3. I see the same behavior each night that I watch "Deal or No Deal"...greed overcomes common sense almost every time.

    Those poor employees...

  4. Wow! That's too bad for Company B. I also thought of Deal or No Deal! It's why I'll never be a gambler - I am too afraid of losing it all!

    Sounds like a very interesting job that you had back then!

  5. Oh my - yeah, it would really suck to be sitting at the table and watching the three backsides of your "saviors" disappear. Don't you wish you could see where they are today?

  6. Yikes! I'm glad I wasn't one of them too!

    from Marfmom: (OpenID is apparently having problems)

  7. Wow- he really just walked out on them like that? That is pretty hard core. I'd be glad to be you instead of them too- yikes!

  8. Ooooh...that had to have been a horrible feeling for them! I would have been glad to been on the other team as well! :)

  9. Serves them right, bet they wished they were someone else at that point.

    Here's a link to my writer's workshop post:

  10. Oh wow, I never would have thought there wouldn't be a negotiation. They probably kicked themselves forever over that one.


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