CA Gets the Last Laugh

Remember Network Associates' hostile bid for Cheyenne?

Nearly four years after the fact, Computer Associates and the former Cheyenne Software finally are getting the last laugh on Network Associates.

Software historians will recall that Network Associates (formerly McAfee Software) launched a $1 billion hostile bid for Cheyenne in early 1996. Truth be told, I was working for Cheyenne at the time—and a McAfee takeover didnt sit well with most Cheyenne employees. Twenty feet away from my cubicle, Cheyennes VP of investor relations spent two weeks working the phones, telling irate shareholders that the McAfee deal wasnt in their best interests.

In fact, Cheyenne CEO ReiJane Huai preferred a merger with Computer Associates. After all, Huai and CA chairman Charles Wang had a close working relationship. And Cheyennes main office was only 30 miles from CAs Islandia, N.Y., headquarters.

Privately, Cheyenne officials suspected that McAfees business was a house of cards—built on risky acquisitions and questionable channel sales tactics.

McAfee ultimately walked away from the deal and Huai was vindicated when CA purchased Cheyenne in late 1996. But the icing on the cake didnt arrive until late last month, when Network Associates announced a stunning sales shortfall and several high-profile management changes.

Wall Street accused Network Associates of "stuffing" the distribution channel in 1999 and 2000— just as Cheyennes management had long suspected.

Network Associates stock fell nearly 70 percent on the news—which hardly surprised this one-time Cheyenne manager.