I see from this article on CNET news that Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL until its acquisition by Sun, will be leaving the corporation as part of the current reogranisation.
Let me say first, I never met Marten or had anything to do with the MySQL team – but over the 8 years I was at Sun, I saw many repeats of what looks like a familiar cycle, particularly in the software division:
- Sun acquires sexy-looking technology company to complement its existing portfolio;
- Chief Exec finds life increasingly frustrating not being at the top of the pyramid;
- Chief Exec takes first opportunity to leave (sometimes, I suspect, gated principally by the timetable on which various options and cash tranches pay out…).
I saw it with the JCP Trustbase acquisition which brought me into Sun, and I saw it subsequently with senior people from other companies. It doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with the acquisition: plausibly, the skills and drives which make you the CEO of an attractive acquisition target are very different from those needed to prosper inside a larger and more bureaucratic corporation.
All the same, I observed that that process was also often accompanied by a steady erosion of much of the value and expertise which the acquisition had been designed to bring into Sun, and to me, that was more of a danger sign than the departure of an entrepreneurial CEO. Making an acquisition work, after all, is not just about keeping the same staff: it’s also about learning from what they know, and propagating that through the rest of the organisation.
For all the acquisitions it has made over the last decade, I’m afraid I am still not convinced that message has sunk in at Sun.