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Corel Without Cowpland? 61

Marillion writes "In this op-ed piece, Edmonton Sun columnist Greg Michetti speculates what life without Corel CEO Michael Cowpland might be like, due to the alleged securities violations filed against him by the OSC. " Michetti raises a curious point about the cult of personality of computer company CEOs, and how they influence their company. What does everyone else think will happen with Corel, regardless of the outcome of the Cowpland charges?
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Corel Without Cowpland?

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  • True, unlike most manly computer moguls out there, you never see too much of their wives. OTOH, it is possible to see too much on Mrs. Cowpland :-) Man, what she was wearing to that ball with the gold breastplate. Too weird!
  • No, as I mentioned in my post, I left Corel 2 months before they shut down. I accepted a position at another company for a small $26K raise, and so left with no bitterness.

    I cannot say the same of other employees who worked there.
  • Scenario 1: Interm CEO of Apple finishes up his 'temporary' stint, then goes on to save corel.

    Scenario 2: Steve & Co. buys corel and finally makes a decent Office Suite for Mac to compete with Bill's crap, also makes a Windoze suite, and becomes the driving force to destroy Bill's empire.

    To those who want to point out to me that MS owns part of AAPL... they don't. MS bought $150M worth of non-voting shares, which can be sold at any time after August 2000. It was a desperate move by Apple in desperate times. They no longer need MS to survive, and expect Steve to start badmouthing Bill again the first chance he gets.

    Apple + Corel = Serious Trouble for MS

    (I should go take my Ritalin now...)
  • No, Corel didn't do the Unix port of WP. It was done by another company in Provo (which I don't recall the name). I went to their web page recently and noticed that they appear to be out of business.

    I worked on the DEC Alpha port of the Suite 8 while I was there. Most of that port was actually done by Millenium Computer Corp. in Rochester New York. After that I started on Suite 9 for Intel, but the install wasn't going anywhere (so I kludged most of it with Perl :-) ). I haven't heard anything about Suite 9 since I left. Maybe they scrapped it (I've heard rumors of Corel Office 2000).

    The reality of Utah is that IT jobs pay around 35% less than the national average - or so I've heard. Corel employees were probably getting paid 15% or more higher than the national average. No doubt these were leftovers from the good ol' WP days when they could afford outrageous wages. Apparently Novell and Corel could not afford these wages, as I understand Corel cut costs by $30M just by shutting down the Orem office.

    Cost of living is still considerably cheaper than in California, and work here is pretty good. I'm interviewing at Novell for a position - and I know they treat their employees well.

    Unfortunately, not too much Unix around. Right now I'm working for a research company, and we run Solaris 2.5, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Linux.
  • Cowpland is Corel.
    Gates is Microsoft.
    McNealy is Sun.
    Ellison is Oracle.
    These world respected organisations would not be where they are today if it wasn't for these "personalities".

    At the moment Corel are in no real danger of loosing either top man. But as the article states that in the event of a conviction "...the Board of Directors...will ask Cowpland for his resignation." If Cowpland goes I think it unlikley that Corel will survive. This man is actively the driving force behind Corel even though he occasionly makes a tit of himself. Corels support for Linux may well be the first thing to go in the event of loosing Cowpland as the vultures that are Microsoft and Adobe will eat Corel whole.
  • My hope is that they actually complete a non-Draw for Windows project.

    They failed to follow through on multiple promises to the OS2 community, then took the
    world by storm with the Java office suite,
    now they promise the best linux distro in town.

    Since we really don't need yet another linux distro, my hope is that they just maintain a useable WordPerfect on Linux, perhaps even upgrade it to read Word documents, regardless of how often that format changes.
  • by mr ( 88570 ) on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @06:27AM (#1599469)

    Small proprietorships do not survive the change of CEO most of the time.
    Small companies who can't write out a blank check for the CEO have a hard time surviving the change.
    Big companies regularly change CEO's and the only people who care (for a time) are the shareholders.

    Corel is *NOT* the same company it was 5 years ago. Or 10 even.
    The same can be said for Borland, who's CEO 'qualifies' for 'celebrity' status.

    Corel will CHANGE because of a different leader. They may contract, expand, or be bought out. But they will change. And if the collective "we" that is /. Readers were afraid of change, none of us would be using OpenSource, involved with computers, or all the other quickly changeable things that makes up a 'nerds' life.

    I woudn't worry about Corel. If OpenSource is correct, if Unix is correct, there will be people making office suites for Unix. And graphic apps. So, if Corel drops the ball, another will pick it up. The bigger threat to *ALL* the software writers is *WHEN* (not if) all major applications classes have OpenSourced BSD/GPLed/blah blah licensed software. (Word processors, spreadsheets, etc la) Then, the support staff for the products will carry the authors. (This was the case years ago. You leased hardware, and a staff of programmers came along with the machine. The programmers were 'free')

  • For those of you wondering about Mrs. Cowpland, you may want to take a look at canoe's slide show []. Click back a couple to see the famous $1 million dollar outfit. Also, take in this piece [] about her personal designer- the one who suggested the whole gold breastplate/15K diamond thing. Wow...
  • Or (duh) check out [] to see how *truly* tacky the famous outfit is.
  • Yes he is. He's no longer the president of Microsoft (Steve Ballmer is). But he is definitely still the CEO.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • In _Built to Last_, which discusses this subject quite a bit, it relates that companies with cult-of-personality leaders often thrive at the cost of the development of the company as a whole. Corel, minus Cowpland, might be better off without him becuase the company would be forced to operate as a team, reinvent process, and promote from within...making it a stronger company.
  • ...for Corel to be there. Corel might be one of the crown jewels of the Central Canadian region in high-tech businesses, but the fact that the National Capital Region is *the* hub for the federal government means that there will always be companies ready to do the establishment's bidding. In essence Corel is neither here nor there as far as the NCR is concerned; other firms will fill the gap should the company prove inadequate to the task. I suspect that Corel's success or failure will have sweet FA to do with Cowpland himself -- this post above slices and dices the argument much better than I could.
  • Cowpland is Corel.
    Gates is Microsoft.
    McNealy is Sun.
    Ellison is Oracle.
    These world respected organisations would not be where they are today if it wasn't for these "personalities".

    I disagree strongly, at least in the case of Sun. Sure, Scott is the visible front-man for Sun, a role that he relishes and which suits his brash style - But what Sun is is by no means Scott's vision alone, or even his principally, although he is a key player.

    In fact, it's probably quite safe to say that Scott sees his job more as carrying out the vision than defining it. Sun's vision per se (the technical aspect) is far more a product of Bill Joy, John Gage, Eric Schmidt (CEO at Novell for a while now, but his imprint is still on Sun), Greg Papadopoulos (Eric's replacement as CTO), James Gosling and Bud Tribble.

    I've worked at a lot of companies, but never seen another where such a strong community of seriously capable people is setting the direction. Scott has the visibility - that's his role - but don't forget the other driving powers behind Sun. I don't think the other companies mentioned above have nearly the strengths that Sun has in comparable roles, which is one of the things that makes sun truly different from nearly every other company in this business.

    In most cases, strong CEOs are very controlling. (Quick, who's Ellison's #2?) The interesting thing about Scott is that he (and Sun) really doesn't operate that way...

  • I used to swear by Corel WP8 for Windoze. Now I'm swearing at it. We're slowly migrating our enterprise network over to WP8 and we've discovered that even with the service packs WP8 is not a solid product. It's unstable, and even after fighting with Corel's tech support (very good tech support I might add) we can't get it stable on the power-users computers. They're frustrated and can't understand why we don't just use Word97 (MUCH worse in my opinion). Bottom line: Corel designs a much better product. I'm upset with them that they can't take their design and make a more usable application out of it.
  • You obviously don't live in Ottawa. Here, everyone knows who he is and they either hate him or love him. Him and his wife (especially his wife) are always in the papers for their famous "flamboyancy". The Corel Draw Gala's are always covered.

    Most of the employees love him. They refer to him "Mike". It's really no different than the "CEO cult" in any other tech company.
  • I used to work for Corel Corporation U.S., back when there was still a Corel U.S. to work for. Last March the company sent out the quarterly earnings summary, and I just happened to notice that, financially, the company was just half of what it was a year before. This helped me decide to take another position at a different company, in spite of the assurances of my team leaders at Corel.

    Employee morale was already at an all time low, but folks failed to see the inevitable. The WordPerfect Suite 9 install was being moved to Ottawa, where there were only three developers working overtime on it. These guys were soon burned out, looking for jobs elsewhere.

    Two months after I left, Corel shut down what was left of the old WordPerfect campus, leaving only a small skeleton crew on contract for a few months to tidy things up. It was a necessary move for Corel; they just couldn't afford the over-paid legacy WordPerfect crew anymore, but the decision has pretty much been the death knell for the Corel Office suite.

    Which is why I believe they grabbed onto the Linux trend, as an alternate source of revenue and a chance to start anew with a fresh product.

    As for the allegations that Dr. Cowpland has been involved in illegal business practices, I would not be surprised if they did turn out to be substantiated. Most former employees of Corel would probably feel the same way, I suspect.

    Dr. Cowpland may be rich and smart, and he certainly wouldn't have any qualms about going to any length to make an extra buck.
  • Apple already has there own Office Suite. Ever heard of AppleWorks? Formerly ClarisWorks. It's a nice bundled suite with a word processor, spreadsheet, draw/paint program etc.

    Apple has got their own *nix distro as well. BSD/OpenStep based MacOSX and Darwin. They would just as soon shelve the Corel distro if a buyout ever happened.
  • From where i sit i wonder if Cowplands departure is such a bad thing. A bit of History is needed.

    Back in the late 70's the Province of Ontario created the Ontario Centres for Technology. Electronics was located in Ottawa, CAD/CAM in Cambridge, Ontario near Allan Bradley, Robotics in Peterbourough Ont near the GE plant, Automotive i believe in Chatham and Natural Resources in Northern Ontario.

    Initially it was a shoe string Operation with grants to Ontario Companies that embraced new Technology as well as some low cost loans. Ottawa got MicroElectronics partially because noboy saw a real future for micro electronics ( the wisdom of civil servants) and because Digital Canada was there.

    This is why Corel developed ad grew in Kanata. The re were grants etc to encourage these companies to grow.

    Cowpland raised Corel and as the 80's and early 90's passed saw an unlimited futre. But Cowpland has made many misteps along the way. If as was stated by several posters Corel was in the US there would have been a changing of the guard a long time ago.

    As for Cowpland being charged.....Lets look at it this way.... Except for Bre-X name the last insider trading charges filed in Canada. Ummmmm Ummmmmm. Unless its so blatant it passes. The Globe and Mail just did a report on insider trading and how incestous the financial community is and the lack of enforcement. Suffice it to say Corel and Cowpland are not looked on in favoir by the Canadia investment community. I just finished scanning thru Bell Charts and found a total of 25,000 shares of corel held by Canada's captive Mutual Funds. This speaks for itself.

    Now for Corel and Linux.....remember the storm over the License on the Beta?

    ow does Corel make money from linux? Its an attempt to granb the brass ring and show the investment community see we are in Linux we are hot we are there today leading the the pack on technology. Look up Corel's press releases when the Linux Beta went out.... More drum beatng than you can imagine.

    Nooo i think Corel needs a new CEO a man of vision a technocrat and not a flamboyant huckster.

    What will happen is anybodies guess, but as for Corel distribution of Linux, it will prolly go the same way WP is distributed in Canada, with system Boards just to get the product out.

  • ...who can?t write...CEO?s...who?s CEO ?qualifies? for ?celebrity? status...

    Please use the demoronizer to get rid of these gratuitious question marks in favor of OSI standard (not M$ knockoff) quotes. Although your post made some good points, it took every once of self control to continue reading to the end with such irritating and distracting characters peppered throughout, and it makes you look far less intelligent than your comments imply.
  • CEOs are, among other things, high paid cheerleaders. They do set the tone for a company.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    To me anyway, he seems to be a large driving force behind Corel. I don't think they'd do as well without him.

    I hope for Corel's sake, they don't end up losing him. Besides, I wouldn't be able to see what his wife would be wearing at the next gala! *howls like a wolf*.

    Which leads me to another question. Who exactly was the driving force in Corel to go so heavy in the Linux direction? Was it Cowpland?
  • ...And thats something which I can't really judge. If Corel is a healthy organisation they should have a decent backup to replace their CEO. Lets face it; everyone can get sick and therefor it is important for a company to make sure they can go on without a certain person.

    If you look at the market and the things Corel said they were setting up I think there should be no problem if they can persuede their stockholders that the company will keep going strong, even if their CEO isn't available for a period of time. Offcourse there is allways the little matter of living up to the promise.

    Without knowing anything about the things that are going on in the Corel company my guess would be that they could face a rough time but in the end they'll manage.

  • Cowpland's name has long been ruined. I was not surprised in the least when I read of his charges. I mean, the guy is like a snake-oil salesman from the 1800's. He radiates an aura of greed and self-intrest.

    It would be different if he at least showed some ability to lead the company, but he doesn't. He DOES show a remarkable ability to grind it into the ground.

    This is not the first time he has been charged with securities violations either, and I don't think that it's just an unlucky co-incidence.
  • I think it's a little too early to talk about what it will be like without Cowpland leading Corel. At this point, he hasn't admitted to any wrongdoing, nor has he been convicted of such. False accusations are made all the time, and this could possibly be one of those unfortunate situations. Naturally, the evidence that we've seen thus far doesn't look too promising, but it's possible that he could clear his name in this situation. I would hate to have his name ruined based on assumptions and rumors before we actually hear the facts.
    Daniel Baker - -
  • by mTor ( 18585 )
    Corel would be MUCH better without Cowpland... he made a series of bad decisions in the last 5 years and he was mostly influenced by his ego and his rivlary with Terry Matthews (CEO of Newbridge and his friend from high school).

    PS: I worked for Corel and many people inside Corel have the same thoughts as me...
  • Corel's chances for long-term success depend on their attention span. Maybe their attempt, three years ago, to do office applications in Java would have failed anyway, but they didn't give it a serious try. Let's hope they're more serious about Linux.
  • I think Corel is much better off without cowpland. He has shown time and time again that he has no long term vision for the company, and it only ever interested in being "just Like Bill" and running the next MS.

    Corel's support of linux is simply Cowpland thinking that if he can't win on windows, maybe he can domineer a different platform entirely, and right now it looks like windows will lose in time.

    Also, cowpland and his wife must be embarrasing to the company's image, especially when they are losing money, yet she flaunts her 1 million dollar lambskin jumpsuit with diamond nipple and gold breast plate.
  • Jeez, he makes it sound like if Cowpland leaves, the Corel ship will just drift on the doledrums of the Software Seas! In short, this editorial is just blustering fear-mongering.

    Let's first make the assumption that Corel finds another CEO and if this person has a pulse, THEN let's speculate on whether or not Corel has a chance or not.

    What tripe.

  • All Capone ran his empire from prison for some years. If Copeland was sent to prison ( worst case scenario ) then he could do the same. As things stand right now that is the best bet for keeping the company afloat.

  • There isn't exactly a cult of personality built up around Cowpland, is there? Before all this I'd never heard of the guy, and I read a few of the trade rags. You'd expect to hear about him somewhere! Isn't it about time for a new CEO at Corel? Compaq got rid of their top guy and weren't doing nearly as badly as Corel. If Corel took their current business plan, got rid of Cowpland, hired a competent CEO, and followed through, there's a chance they could do very well, and I don't think it would hurt their image at all.
  • by nevets ( 39138 ) on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @06:12AM (#1599505) Homepage Journal
    Ok, So I see posts of Corel being better off without him, and I see fewer posts of Corel being better off with him. I say neither, because I don't know who's up on deck. This to me is the critical issue. If Cowpland leaves Corel for whatever reasons (I'm being nice), the big question is: Who takes over?

    This can make or break Corel.

    When IBM lost Akers(sp?) it was a Good Thing(tm). Mainly because Gerstner(sp?) took over. Of course it was hard to get worst than Akers, but Gerstner was able to bring IBM back and not make things worse. Now, this may be a different story because of the circumstances behind Cowpland, but how the business does, will be determined by who runs it.

    --- Old IBM Joke: How much dirt does it take to bury IBM? One Aker.

    Steven Rostedt
  • If Cowpland was sent to jail, Corel wouldn't want anything to do with him. The analogy to Al Capone is a bad one - Al Capone's "empire" was based around him and his criminal genius (such as it was). Corel is a corporation; more like a ship. The CEO steers it and, unless he's really really good, can be replaced.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @06:14AM (#1599511)
    I think Cowpland is the one who pushed for Linux -- of course, he was
    briefed by others who pushed the option, but in the end, the final decision
    was his.

    I am scared that if the Corel CEO (? Cowpland is CEO, right?) is, er, "removed"
    from Corel, that the someone else that would take his place would axe
    Corel Linux and the WINE efforts "because it is not our core business"... That
    could explain why they're rushing Corel Linux out the door.

    Why am I saying they are rushing it? I'm a beta tester and IMO, their Linux
    is nowhere near where it should be. This is a _high profile_ product whose first
    impression will overshadow anything they do afterwards. If they bring it out too
    early, people will only see a very incomplete product with still quite a
    few bad design decision showing. And, to boot, with no application that is
    _integrated_ with the environment -- unless I'm on drugs (or cafeine deprived,
    I have not yet finished my first cup), cut-n-paste between WP8 and KDE apps
    does not work. That's just one example.

    Remember what the target market is for Corel Linux and what said market will/would
    expects from a Linux distro.

    Corel and the Linux world needs for Corel Linux to be a finished, polished
    product. I'd prefer that they'd just do a DEMO at COMDEX and ship it in december
    or even january instead of shipping an unfinished product that could have bad
    PR consequences on the unwashed masses.

    Personally, I think they should at least wait for Potato (the next version of Debian,
    their base distro) to come out -- and see if they can't help with debconf, which
    seems to be a post-install configuration utility/standard so that they can have the
    smootest software install/maintenance "infrastructure" for all those new users
    coming from the Windows world.

    Corel brings us the chance of having a Linux distro where people *paid attention
    to details*, where people building it know that it has to be used by *real people*,
    not propeller heads, that have to work in "the real world" where M$ rules (ugh...
    cough!) and with Windows-centric users. Corel has the chance of creating a
    product that could fit right in and let its users be productive ASAP.

    But they might blow that chance by rushing the product... Hmmm, I wonder if this
    is not Cowpland saying "bring the product out so that the source can get out before
    some other jacka** deepsixes it!"... Once the source is out there, what would prevent
    others from recuperating it and integrating it in their own distros???
  • by trance9 ( 10504 ) on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @07:14AM (#1599514) Homepage Journal
    Corel has some serious organizational problems to solve, problems that dwarf the issues surrounding Michael Cowpland. It's bad that he is in trouble because it means potential chaos for Corel's management--however, this problem is small in the big picture.

    The big picture is that Corel is in for a major rethinking of the way they make money, a major restructuring, a lot of confusion, and if they screw any of it up, death.

    As a proprietary software vendor Corel's organization is wholly unsuitable for the kind of business they are proposing to move to. The company is set up to create and sell high margin software, and they're losing that market no matter what happens.

    Their core business, wordprocessors and drawing packages, is rapidly becoming a commodity market. There are many competitors, and some of them are free. This will never be a high margin business again.

    Their new business, creating and selling a Linux distribution, will also never be a high margin business. The cost to enter this market is near zero, there are many existing competitors, and any John Q. Public has all the resources and money needed to set up a new one. Put it this way: Debbie and Ian did it, so can anyone else.

    Free software projects are mean and lean. They include just as many people as the project can support financially--each involved only to the extent that the project can support them. People who make a living developing free software rarely back a single project--they get involved in anything and everything, widening their area of expertise so that they can earn a reasonable living as a consultant.

    In other words, the free software world is a network of co-operating individuals, each motivated by shared interests, and shared needs. Groups come together and then vapourize as needed, to complete whatever work needs to be done.

    A proprietary software company is very different, it's a strict hierarchy with managers at the top telling the employees at the bottom what to do. Employees rarely move from one project to another. When such companies adopt more "open" office policies, the result is still immensely structured compared to the reality of a typical free software project.

    Companies like Mozilla, Red Hat, etc., are not structured like a traditional company. They have developers out in the field, working on all sorts of things. They try really hard to be like a free software project--and even still it isn't clear whether it can work.

    Corel is so very far from that way of doing business that they are in for some huge turbulence in the next while. There is a good chance they might not survive.

    Cowplands troubles are, by comparason, totally irrelevant. They should not distract anyone from the fact that Corel is a business built around one business model, now trying to switch and work around a different model.

    Free software is a contradiction of proprietary software, and any company that makes a switch from one way of doing business to the other has to resolve that contradiction.
  • I think in a lot of cases you are right. However in your subject mention of Gates you're pretty far off. Gates is much more than a cheerleader to MS. Cheerleaders don't make any decisions, they just provide support when other people do. BillG may not be our favorite person, but the truth is that he's led Microsoft to where they are today. Of course, take that for what it's worth.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • 1. Cowpland has been charged. That does not mean he is guilty. Talking about booting him is a bit premature.

    2. Corel has made a profit for the last two quarters under Cowpland's direction. Granted, they have posted losses in the past, but I don't like the idea of throwing out the CEO of a company that has shown such improvements.
  • by dave_aiello ( 9791 ) on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @07:22AM (#1599517) Homepage
    If Corel were an American company, they would have been put into a turnaround mode a long time ago. Cowpland would have either been forced out, or been kicked upstairs to the sole position of Chairman. Someone with the kind of resume of a Gil Amelio (pre-Apple) would have been brought in, and they would have rationalized their product lines.

    So, regardless of the action by the Ontario Securities Commission, why hasn't this happened already? Because Corel, along with companies like Nortel, Newbridge Networks, and Hummingbird Communications, are considered technological crown jewels of the Canadian economy. Therefore, any major changes to their operating structures must be evaluated in terms of their political impact to the nation and the region where they are based.

    A company the size of Corel simply would not have the political clout or the economic impact to stay in the position it is currently in, if it were based in the United States.

    We can say all we want about the prescience of Corel to invest so much of its R&D into the Linux platform, but this would not be happening to the extent it is if the acquisition of the WordPerfect technologies from whomever held them last had played well in the Wintel market.

    I guess the next question is, does the Linux community have as much at stake in this as the Canadian business establishment and the Ottawa region does? I would say that the Linux community does not have as much at stake, because we have StarOffice and Applix, and these are both viable office application suites for this platform.

    In terms of what Corel should do at this point, it depends on how much weight they give to maximizing the value of the company to its shareholders and to the relative value of the stock before and after this announcement. The savvy move, from a shareholder value standpoint, would be to hire a new CEO with a history of turning around major technology companies. However, the company's ability to do that would be influenced heavily by the willingness of the Federal and Provincial governments to allow major changes to be made.

    A new CEO could also end up benefitting the Linux community because the Linux effort (perhaps combined with the WordPerfect intellectual property) could be spun off into its own company. This would probably result in faster progress toward usable products than if things remained as they are today.

    Not knowing what the WordPerfect suite looks like from a code standpoint, I would seriously consider opening the source code up, were I the new CEO. However, the viability of that strategy depends heavily on how simply the WordPerfect code is written.

    Such a move would also be perilous because it would face the same issues as Mozilla has faced. Even with a good license, developers probably would not flock to it.

    In any case, I am not sure how Corel expects to make any money from its current Linux investments, unless it expects to receive licensing revenues from hardware manufacturers that embed their product line in next generation network appliances that would replace PCs as we know them.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal