CA's founder stays in the shadows during scandal

Charles Wang was CEO during the '35-day months' but hasn't been charged with any crimes

One element in the CA accounting scandal that remains something of a mystery is the status of CA’s founder, Charles Wang.

Wang established CA in the US in 1976, after licensing the rights to sell CA products in America from Walter Haefner, a Swiss car dealer who got into business software in the early 1970s. Within a short time, the US operation was much bigger than the European one and CA was on the way to becoming a multinational.

Wang was chief executive of CA when the “35-day month” activity took place in 1999-2000, but hasn’t been charged with any offences by the US authorities.

A former US Securities and Exchange Commission special counsel, Ross Albert, told Newsday “The government just couldn’t get the strong evidence to tie him to any of those crimes.”

Wang is believed to have used email rarely during his many years as CA’s chief executive.

When current CA chief executive John Swainson was questioned about Wang at the company’s 2006 annual meeting in September, one shareholder asked him why CA has made no recent statements about Wang.

Swainson replied “Wang doesn’t have an operational role at the company” and went on to say “I’ve never met with him in my nearly two-year tenure [at CA].”

Wang remains a significant shareholder in CA and it was he, more than anyone else, who built CA into what it is today. From small beginnings, he kept on acquiring niche software companies until CA had enough momentum and revenue to be a candidate for going public, which it did in 1981.

The acquisitions continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s, until CA was a behemoth with more than 1,200 individual software products, billions of dollars in annual revenue and a presence in many countries.

Wang remained chief executive of CA until mid-2000, and chairman until 2002, when he resigned altogether from CA.

During his 24-year tenure as CA’s chief executive, Wang was known for his fiery temperament and hard-nosed approach. In the early 1990s, for example, CA sued EDS, a major customer, alleging violations of the terms of the licensing deal.

CA’s habit of laying off many of the staff of the companies it acquired caused Oracle’s Larry Ellison to label it “the scavenger” of the software world, according to BusinessWeek.

Ellison did eventually moderate his view of Wang, however.

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