HOME › Forums › Ken Williams Questions and answers / Thanks Forum › Email: You fell off KENNY BOY!! YOU FELL OFF!!! (Continued from 12-08-2003)
- This topic has 3 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 13 years ago by phemail,phemail_cox_net.
I wanted to post this reply in the original thread, but it looks like this forum has been reorganized since my last post in 2003. If you would like to see the original thread, it is still in google’s search cache and can be found at this link:
I may have came across as a little harsh or rude to most of you, but if I was the owner/founder of the original Sierra, I would have never even come close to putting the future of my company is someone elses hands. And I think Ken needs to be a little more honest, he must have saw this as his big “payday”. Think about it, this company went from two people working in their garage, stuffing zip lock bags full of floppy disks and xeroxing copies of the manuals, and then mailing them out to people, to where it is was before they sold it. I think Ken though, hey, I put a lot of effort into this company, I deserve to get paid and be able to travel and golf for the rest of my life because of my hard work.
But HEY, KEN! I’m the reason you were successful in the first place, me and countless others who supported your company, paid for the games, and got pissed off at our friends who would copy the games. If I ever even played an illegal version of a Sierra game, I would definetely go out and buy it. I have never been that loyal to a gaming company and I probably will never be again. Ken owed it to us, to make sure Sierra’s legacy stays untarnished and if he had to work the rest of his life and never have time for golf or traveling, so be it. Bottom line, you cannot say you had no idea that Mr. Forbes would do something like that, because you knew the potential of something like that existed and you should have never put Sierra in that boat. It was ridiculous to think that whoever bought Sierra would leave it exactly the way it was, and if they did, it would not last very long because look at the market back then, adventure games were on there way out, Doom and Starcraft type games had taken over, MMO’s were on there way in. And Sierra could have moved into those avenues, Sierra could have made FPS, strategy and MMO’s with the same integrity their earlier games had.
Ken owes it to us, to admit, hey, golfing, traveling, and life security, were more important to him than the fans. I respect Ken a lot, I really love the guy and the old Sierra, but I think I’m and all the fans are owed an apology. I forgive you Ken, but don’t ask me to forget or to pretend it wasn’t in your control.
And you deserve a thanks, a huge thanks, I really appreciate the fact that you started the company and gave us a decade or so of great games.
Ken does not owe us an apology at all. You however should inform yourself a bit better about Sierra’s corporate history before judging him so harshly. Fact is that, in the early eighties, Sierra grew (and at one point nearly went bankrupt) because of venture capital. And around 1989, Sierra On-Line went public on the stockmarket. Without these capital injections, Sierra could never have made their acquisitions (Dynamix, Impressions, Coktel Vision,…), publish all these wonderfull games and become as successful as it was. The price tag for these capital injections was ownership of Sierra. Ken may have been the founder and CEO, but he was no longer the majority owner of Sierra On-Line. The shareholders were, and it’s the shareholders that had the final word on corporate decisions. So, when the shareholders got an offer from CUC in 1996 to buy their stock for about twice the marketprice, they decided to take the offer and Ken couldn’t do anything to prevent the sale of Sierra On-Line. It was only in April 1998, after CUC was merged with HFS to become Cendant, that the CUC fraud was revealed. “you cannot say you had no idea that Mr. Forbes would do something like that”. Are you suggesting Ken had knowledge about the CUC fraud?! Not even Henry Silverman knew until after he merged his company with CUC! It is regretable how things turned out but your accusations of Ken “cashing out” are in my opinion out of line.
At the time we were acquired, the company wasn’t for sale. Walter Forbes had been on our board for a number of years, and blindsided me after a board meeting with the offer of acquisition.
In the weeks following his (Walter’s) proposal there were intense negotiations, and the deal almost fell apart several times. Price was certainly an issue, although the price was the simplest issue negotiated. We resolved the price almost immediately.
The huge issue was the management of the company post-acquisition. I needed to believe that the company would retain its independence after the acquisition and be able to continue producing great product. After intense negotiations, a structure was put in place that I believed would result in a major win for Sierra’s employees and customers.
Walter Forbes vision was to roll together all of the larger software companies, creating one huge entertainment company. The acquisition of Davidson (Blizzard) and Sierra was really intended as just the beginning.
We agreed that the non-creative groups, such as manufacturing and distribution would be consolidated, but that the product groups would retain their independence. A complex structure was put in place that not only gave me clear command of Sierra, but also visibility and influence over all of the products across the consolidated company. This would allow me to focus on what I did best (product) while creating a distribution company that could deal with the operational issues.
The deal would not have closed were I not convinced that it was in the best interests of ALL of Sierra’s employees, customers and shareholders.
Almost immediately after the deal closed I realized that things were not going to be as we had planned, and not all of the problems were with the acquiring company. Sierra’s sales force was consolidated with Davidsons, and there were problems with the Davidson sales force selling Sierra products. They had been selling educational software which had a very different sales profile than computer games. There were also issues with a cultural difference between selling preschool software and Leisure-Suit Larry. Some of our biggest hits were offensive to some people at Davidson. It was an issue no one had expected.
Prior to the acquisition, the potential for these kinds of problems had been discussed. A structure was put in place to deal with them, and it was all ignored. A software board was to have been created, but it never had a single meeting. I do not know why. Also, Bob Davidson, who was running all sales for the consolidated company suddenly left the company. I felt that I, or someone from my senior management team, should have been installed to run the company, but CUC brought in a member of their senior management with no experience in software. I was frustrated and unhappy, and wound up leaving the software business entirely.
I have heard rumors that Bob Davidson’s departure was hastened by his asking tough questions at the board level. I was also on the board, and did see some things that perhaps with 20/20 hindsight should have been yellow flags. That said, the accountants who had studied the company (CUC) for years didn’t see the problems, so I can’t beat myself up too much for not seeing the problems during a few board meetings. Actually, it is still tough for me to see Walter Forbes as a criminal. He was a very visionary person, who I had tremendous respect for. It never would have occured to me to suspect him of criminal conduct. I do think all of the trial transcripts are available to the public, and someday I’d like to read them to form my own opinion about what happened. To this day, I still have trouble saying, absolutely, that he was a crook. I have accepted that he was, but it is so out of sync with the Walter Forbes that I knew that I’d someday like to see the evidence myself and form my own opinion.
It is a huge disappointment for me that Sierra died. Actually, Sierra didn’t die, it was murdered. We had tremendous momentum, and a system in place, that I thought would keep the company going forever. It shouldn’t have been possible that the company would be so poorly managed. It was a horrible turn of events, and should have been avoidable.
Thank you very much for explaining what had happened, I did not claim to know every detail or every fact of the matter, but I just wanted to give an honest objective response from a die hard Sierra fan. I give Sierra a lot of credit in my logic development and both my brother and I who is a lawyer, think we wouldn’t have been in the top percentile of the LSAT if it wasn’t for Sierra’s games.
I’m especially fond of this paragraph:
“It is a huge disappointment for me that Sierra died. Actually, Sierra
didn’t die, it was murdered. We had tremendous momentum, and a system in
place, that I thought would keep the company going forever. It
shouldn’t have been possible that the company would be so poorly
managed. It was a horrible turn of events, and should have been
Thank you for that, and I agree Sierra was murdered, but you have to admit, you were its first line of defense. I really can’t say how well you protected Sierra, but the bottom line is, it died in your hands, but it also was created by your hands, so I hope you understand and appreciate how much I care about you and the old company. I’m just a non compromising kind of guy that feels like he would never let something like what happened to Sierra happen to anything I created. I hope to see you get back into gaming software and revolutionize it again like you did about 30 years ago.