Is the Acquisition of Jive Software Imminent?

Jive Software’s future has been a topic of discussion after Tony Zingale was appointed interim CEO in late February. Recently, there has been speculation that the company will be acquired soon. Those rumors escalated last Tuesday, when Jive appointed Zingale as its permanent CEO, just 3 months after giving him the title on a temporary basis. But do the rumors of an imminent sale of Jive have any validity? Let’s examine the facts.

Yes, Zingale orchestrated the acquisitions of the last two companies of which he was CEO. In 1999, he was CEO of Clarify when it was acquired by Nortel and, in 2006, he presided over the sale of Mercury Interactive to Hewlett-Packard. Given that past experience, there is a chance that he could engineer the sale of Jive in fairly short order. However, it is noteworthy that Zingale was CEO of Mercury for over 2 years before HP bought it and led Clarify for 3 years prior to its acquisition. This tells me that it is unlikely that Zingale would be able to intentionally sell Jive in his first year as CEO. More time would be needed to get the company’s operating metrics (revenue, profitability, etc.) to where they would need to be to drive a significant acquisition price.

When you factor in Zingale’s 9-year stint as SVP Worldwide Marketing at Cadence Design, the explosive growth that both Mercury and Clarify attained under his leadership, and the fact that he has already invested 2 years in growing Jive as a member of its Board of Directors, it becomes clearer that his experience in building companies is at least as strong as, if not greater than, his proven ability to engineer their purchases. Therefore, I see no conclusive signal in Zingale’s appointment as permanent CEO that he is being given that role to lead the sale of Jive.

Jive also announced on Tuesday that it is moving its headquarters from Portland, OR to Palo Alto, CA. Some immediately interpreted the move to Silicon Valley as an attempt to facilitate the sale of the company by being in the middle of the deal flow. While that is possible, I do not see any hard evidence to support the conclusion. In fact, it is just as likely that Jive is moving to the Valley to enhance its ability to acquire companies as it is that the move is intended to ease its sale. Most importantly, Jive has had some members of its executive team in Palo Alto for several months prior to Zingale’s appointment as temporary CEO, including CMO Ben Kiker and Sr. VP of Products Christopher Morace. Co-Founder Bill Lynch told me last Thursday that Jive had identified the need to expand operations in Palo Alto a year and a half ago. The formal consolidation of Jive’s leadership in Palo Alto simply makes good sense from an operating perspective at this point.

Zingale’s revelation that he would like to grow Jive to a $100M business by the end of this year, and put the company in position for an early 2011 initial public offering, has also fed the acquisition rumor mill. Supposedly, the game is to announce the intent to IPO in order to spur an acquirer into action now. That might work, but as SuccessFactors CFO Bruce Felt pointed out at Altitude2010 last week, there are many benefits to be gained by getting to an IPO as quickly as possible. Chief among those, according to Felt: credibility. That is an attribute sought by an organization that is in it for the long haul, not one that is positioning to sell.

For now, I believe that Zingale is taking a “Built To Last” approach to running Jive Software. That does not mean that he would not sell the company tomorrow if an exceptional offer were made; Bill Lynch admitted as much to me when we spoke. I am not, however, ready to jump to the conclusion that the sale of Jive is imminent, at least not based on the evidence I see now.

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2 responses to “Is the Acquisition of Jive Software Imminent?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Is the Acquisition of Jive Software Imminent? « Together, We Can! -- Topsy.com

  2. Microsoft is going to buy them and fold them into the sharepoint team. Just wait and see.

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