Summary: The irrational dealings of Novell bring belated legal wrath
We hardly cover Novell anymore. The company is history. But just as WordPerfect keeps Novell at present, so does the Attachmate sellout, which Pamela Jones says will haul back the perpetrators. Hovsepian left and moved elsewhere, but his sellout might not go unpunished:
If you thought the deal smelled funny back in 2011 when Novell sold itself to Attachmate and its patents to a Microsoft consortium, you are not alone. Some shareholders — the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System, Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System, Operating Engineers Construction Industry and Miscellaneous Pension Fund, and Robert Norman — sued.
The named defendants, Novell’s Board, Attachmate and Elliott Associates, all moved to dismiss on summary judgment. Attachmate and Elliott succeeded and get to waltz away, but Novell’s board is left on the hook will have go to trial on the shareholders’ claim that the board breached its fiduciary duty, acting in bad faith, a Delaware Court of Chancery judge has ruled [PDF]. I have it as text for you.
Specifically, they claim that Novell favored Attachmate over other bidders, especially a “Party C”, and the judge, under Delaware’s reasonable ‘conceivability’ standard, denied summary judment with respect to the board and decided there will need to be a trial.
“Party C, a private equity firm” ended up with Attachmate at the end of negotiations as the two bidders still standing. Party C actually bid a bit higher than Attachmate. But the allegation is that Attachmate was favored with information that Party C was not given, such as a bid by a Microsoft consortium to buy Novell’s patents, and various other maneuvers that ensured the Attachmate deal prevailed. After Microsoft stepped in with an offer to buy the patents, Attachmate’s deal was better than Party C’s. But, the judge points out, if Novell had told Party C about the offer, it logically might have offered more to match or exceed Attachmate’s bid…
Here’s some background:
As 2010 ended, everyone was digesting the news of Novell’s acquisition by Attachmate, valued at more than $2 billion, and would soon digest the news that Microsoft was acquiring many of Novell’s patents. There were many people who noted that all the signs were there that Novell wouldn’t be sustainable as an independent company. Still, as Groklaw confirms, in 2011 a group of shareholders found the deal to “smell funny” and filed suit. And now, after all this time, the Novell board has to go to trial to address the claims.