Quest Software going private

Just a couple of days ago, Quest Software Inc, got an offer from Insight Venture partners. The offer of USD$23 per share will bring the offer close to USD$2 billion, and the company will be taken private.

This is the second big-name taken off and going private. The first one being BlueCoat after it has agreed to be take private for a price of USD$1.3 billion by Thoma Bravo, a private equity firm.

Quest Software is the maker of the famous Oracle performance analyzer, Toad and also has acquired smaller companies like Bakbone and Vizioncore in the past, but this around it has become the acquisition target.

This brings a very interesting fact, that, more and more public companies are going private. Here in home ground, the largest mobile carrier, Maxis, went private a few years ago.

Why? Typically most companies go private when the shareholders think that the stock market does not give the company share the right value. The market perhaps has stagnated and not growing. However, BlueCoat and Quest Software are not in a stagnant market. Security, application acceleration, data protection and data analytics are big market in the cusp of exploding growth. Then why are these companies going private?

Here are a few possible reasons (my take):

  1. With the buy-out, these companies can be free from the encumbrances that come with being a public company. Some of them include lengthy approvals from shareholders, board of directors and regulators, which could slow the decision-making process
  2. These new owners are looking at plans to expand into markets that they can’t get to globally without being scrutinized by the regulators and certain shareholders. Going private mean that they could offer their services across the globe in the cloud space, with lesser restrictions and prohibitions.
  3. They want to be really aggressive and being public just bogs them down.
  4. The new owners plan to “shoeshine” these lackluster companies and hoping to sell them out again to get a huge profit.

Thoma Bravo, for example, already has several companies in its security portfolio - Entrust, Hyland Software, SonicWall and TripWire and the BlueCoat acquisition just adds more to its “great view of security“. Thoma Bravo, as described, is a technology investment firm specializing in revamping and growing established companies.

Insight Venture Partners (IVP), too, is in the business of private equity and venture capital, and has invested in companies such as Solarwinds, Acronis and DataCore.

This Quest Software acquisition could IVP’s biggest yet, but the question remains. Why?

“Ugly Yellow Box” bought by private equity firm

Security is BIG business, probably even bigger than storage and with more “sex” appeal and pazzazz! My friends are owners of 2 of the biggest security distributors in town, so I know. I am not much of a security guy, but I reason I write about Bluecoat is that this company has something close to my heart.

In the early 2000, NetApp used to have a separate division that is not storage. They have a product called NetCache, which is a web proxy solution. It was a pretty decent product and one of the competitors we frequently encounter on the field was an “ugly yellow box” called CacheFlow. Whenever we see an “ugly yellow box” in a rack, we will immediately know that it was a CacheFlow box. NetApp competed strongly with Cache Flow, partly because their CEO and founder, Brian NeSmith, as we NetAppians were told, was ex-NetApp. And there was some animosity between Brian and NetApp, up to the point that I recalled NetApp’s CEO then, Dan Warmenhoven, declaring that “NetApp will bury CacheFlow!“, or something of that nature. At that point, in the circa of 2001-2002, CacheFlow was indeed in a bit of a rut as well. They suffered heavy losses and was near bankcruptcy. A old news from Forbes confirmed Brian NeSmith’s near-bankcruptcy adventure.

 

CacheFlow survived the rut, changed their name to Bluecoat Systems, and changed their focus from Internet caching to security. Know why they are know as “Bluecoat”? They are the policemen of the Internet, and policemen are men in blue coats. I found an old article from Network World about their change.  And they decided not to paint their boxes yellow anymore. ;-)

 

Eventually, it was CacheFlow who triumphed over NetApp. And the irony was NetApp eventually sold the NetCache unit and its technology to BlueCoat in 2006. And hence, that my account of the history of Bluecoat.

Yesterday, Bluecoat was on the history books again, but for a better reason. A private equity firm, Thoma Bravo, has put in USD$1.3 billion to acquire Bluecoat. News here and here.

Have a happy Sunday :D