Networking pioneer Novell sells out to Attachmate and Microsoft-led group

Attachmate's $2.2 billion offer satisfies Novell's demands; Microsoft-led consortium gets a piece of former rival, too

Novell, one of the earliest names in networking, has agreed to a $2.2 billion buyout by software company Attachmate as well as a sell-off of $450 million worth of intellectual property assets to a consortium organized by Microsoft.

Novell made a name for itself in the 1980s with its once dominant NetWare network operating system but in recent years has struggled financially as it attempted to establish leadership in markets from open source software to workload management. Novell has strung together eight straight quarters of year-over-year revenue declines. 

Also see: Top tech M&A deals of 2010

The company in March rejected a $2 billion takeover offer by New York hedge fund Elliott Associates. CEO Ron Hovsepian said at the time that the offer undervalued Novell’s “franchise and growth prospects.” (Though Elliot does become an equity shareholder in Attachmate under the new deal.)

Some questioned Novell’s wisdom at not selling out in March, arguing the company wasn’t worth $2 billion anymore.  But others said Novell should hold out, given that it had assets at the time worth $1.82 billion. It would appear Hovsepian has been proven correct, given the value of the current purchase agreements: Attachmate's offer is for $6.10 per share vs. Elliott's $5.75 per share bid.

Recently, rumors circulated that VMware might be interested in buying Novell’s SuSE Linux technology to bolster its offerings vs. Red Hat Software. 

As for Attachmate, the company was known early on for its terminal emulation software and more recently has expanded into management software, with buyouts of companies such as NetIQ and OnDemand Software. Attachmate is owned by an investment group led by Francisco Partners, Golden Gate Capital and Thoma Bravo. (Here's why Novell is worth $2.2B to Attachmate)

Attachmate plans to operate Novell as two business units: One focused on Novell’s management technologies, such as its recently updated ZENworks desktop management software, and the other focused on its SuSE Linux offerings.

Novell was started  in 1979, just three years before Attachmate was founded. Raymond Noorda, sometimes called “the Father of Networking,” led Novell during its glory years in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, until Microsoft knocked the company from its perch

In recent years, the financially-strapped Novell put aside its past differences with Microsoft and partnered with the company on a number of fronts. In 2006, the companies forged a relationship designed to make managing mixed Windows and Linux environments easier, but that rubbed many in the open source community the wrong way. 

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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