(re: Did you ever regret selling Sierra?) One thing I never saw though is a brief and sincere reply if you ever regret selling.
Honestly .. this is not an easy question. Because of what happened, there is no doubt that if I had it to do over again, I would not have sold. That said, there is no way I could have known how things would turn out.
I wanted to sell.
Running Sierra was far more intense than you could ever imagine. The entertainment business collects people with large egos, and immense talent. Sierra’s staff was amazing, but also tough to manage. I was being pulled 50 different directions. Wall Street wanted consistently growing quarterly revenues and profits. My staff wanted to refine and improve products forever. Our competitors also made my life tough – in some categories, it was a “keeping up with the Jones'” market – – meaning that our product would only succeed if it was the best in the category. For instance, I would budget $1 million for a flight simulator, and promise everyone a June release date — and, then a competitor would launch a flight sim that was better — at which point I had to raise the budget on my product, and announce a new ship date — and, on and on. There were great days at Sierra, but few easy ones.
After nearly 20 years of running Sierra, I was ready for retirement. My primary focus though, throughout my time at Sierra, and a line everyone heard from me often was “I want to build a company that my grandkids can enjoy.” I was always focused on the future. At Sierra we tried to build brands, and series, and technologies, that would survive long past when I was gone.
During the negotiations to acquire Sierra, I outlined to the purchasers how I thought the transition should be handled. They shared with me their vision for how Sierra would be integrated into the larger organization — which was unacceptable. I declined the deal, because I dd not want Sierra to fail. The next day, the acquirers gave in, and gave me the power I was demanding, post-deal, to ensure that Sierra could make the transition.
Unfortunately, the power I thought I would have to ensure that Sierra made the transition from being a “Ken and Roberta-centric” company to a division of a large corporation, never materialized. It was clear post acquisition, that I would not be able to have much influence over Sierra’s direction. Had I known this, the deal would not have been done. I wanted to retire, but not to the extent that I would do something that wasn’t in the best interests of Sierra’s customers, employees and shareholders.