In 1985, Ted Waitt and his pal Mike Hammond started selling computers out of a barn. Starting with a $10,000 loan guaranteed by his grandmother, a rented computer and a three-page business plan, they grew Gateway into a $10 billion company at its peak in 2000, with a global work force of 24,000 employees.
Ted led a Holstein cow onto the floor of the NY stock exchange in 1997 when Gateway stock began trading there. Boxes plastered with the company's "cow spots" logo were delivered around the company, as ubiquitous as Amazon's "smirk" is today. I remember going to the grand opening of one of their retail stores in Raleigh NC, which was complete with a cow and a handler. Boy, the stories that guy could tell (the handler, not the cow).
After the tech bubble burst, Gateway struggled to re-invent itself but never managed to retain its former glory. Ted left the company in 2005, but is still a major shareholder. His Waitt Family Foundation has, among other things, helped send hundreds of at-risk students to college.
Acer Inc., a Taiwan-based PC vendor, announced today it was buying Gateway for $710 million, or $1.90 per share. While this is a significant premium over the closing price of $1.21 per share, it seems like a bargain when you factor in the value of the Gateway brand. Packard Bell and eMachines will also go into the mix, and the combined company will hold, at least briefly, the #3 spot (pun intended) in the U.S. market.
Tech blogger Tom Ricker at Engadget wonders, "Could we now get rid of the cow spots, please? It's not 1985 anymore". Udderly preposterous, I say. Long live the cow spots! Maybe Acer could even change their stock symbol to COW for greater brand recognition. Moo.