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“… (by But were the crooks at Cendant the main reason for Sierra’s downfall? …”

Good question, but I wasn’t there, so I can’t really say what happened.

There’s a part of the story which hasn’t been told that may have been a factor…

When Cendant acquired Sierra, they also acquired Davidson (which included Blizzard). At the very first meeting to discuss acquiring Sierra, Cendant mentioned that they were also evaluating the acquisition of Davidson, and would be seeking to increase profitability through some consolidation of costs. I certainly supported this, but also said that any effort to subordinate Sierra’s development groups to Bob Davidson would be a disaster. Bob Davidson was a very smart guy, and did a good job with Blizzard, but it was my opinion that it would be a mistake to have him take over Sierra’s product development. This point was negotiated throughout the deal, and a system was put in place which I believed would prevent Sierra from being subordinated to Davidson.

Cendant did partially keep their word. Davidson was given responsibility for all sales and manufacturing immediately, and for a brief period it appeared that I would continue to run Sierra’s product development. But then, Davidson and I started a series of territorial wars. Davidson was not getting along with Cendant (at the time called CUC), nor with me. I felt that the company was being torn apart by Davidson’s and my disagreement, and Cendant “shifted” me to running their online shopping project – leaving the entire software business to Bob Davidson. I supported this move. I still had doubts that Davidson could run Sierra, but knew that the two of us could not co-exist. Bob’s a very successful person, as am I, but we’re two different highly opinionated people, with very different approaches to business.

Unfortunately, Bob and Cendant also had their conflicts, and Bob left the company entirely. At this point, the right answer would have been to put me in charge of the software business, but that is not what occurred. Instead, a member of senior management from Cendant, with no software experience, and little operating experience, was brought in to run a huge software business. He was a super-intelligent, and nice guy, but in way over his head. It just didn’t work.

It’s tough to get work done with management change. Over the years, leadership at Sierra (and Davidson) changed more often than some people change pants. Without clear leadership and vision no company can succeed.

-Ken W