Worst tech mergers and acquisitions: HP and Autonomy, Google and Motorola, and more

A corporate merger, like a marriage, can yield a whole stronger than its parts -- or it can end in utter disaster. We countdown the worst corporate romances in IT history.

Corporate mergers - like marriages - can result in the whole being stronger than its parts -- or they can end in utter disaster. The IT industry has suffered its share of disastrous marriages. Here are the worst of the worst.

#6 - Northern Telecom & Bay Networks

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As a result of the merger between Northern Telecom and Bay Networks, the company renamed itself Nortel Networks.

As part of the Bell Canada group of companies, starting with its formation in the 1890's, Northern Telecom Limited grew into a huge multinational telecommunications equipment manufacturer, and until the rise of Research in Motion, was the poster child for technological innovation in Canada.

During an expansion period during the internet boom of the late 1990s, the company acquired Bay Networks for $9.1 billion in 1998, which was formed only four years previous by the merger of two networking companies, Synoptics and Wellfleet.

Synoptics was one of the earliest innovators of baseband twisted pair Ethernet products which had heavy penetration into the enterprise networking market, and Wellfleet manufactured enterprise routers and was a heavy competitor to Cisco.

As a result of the merger, the company renamed itself Nortel Networks. In the hopes that the company would make tremendous profits from the sale of fiber optic network communications equipment, huge speculation of the stock on Wall Street cranked up the price of the company's shares to ridiculous levels, this despite the fact that the company was unable to be profitable, quarter after quarter.

After numerous efforts to restructure the company and financial mismanagement scandals over a period of about ten years, the company filed for Chapter 11 in January of 2009, and its various businesses were eventually liquidated.

#5 - Google & Motorola

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The Google and Motorola Mobility merger failed on so many levels that it's hard to quantify the extent of the incompetence that surrounds it.

In 2012, Google purchased the handset/tablet division of Motorola, for $12.5B. Over the next two years, Motorola essentially floundered with its product releases and was one of the worst offenders in lagging Android OS updates of all the Android handset OEMs.

The Google and Motorola Mobility merger failed on so many levels that it's hard to quantify the extent of the incompetence that surrounds it.

Not only did Motorola consistently fail to innovate after being acquired by Google, but during its time under Google's ownership, the company released a number of Android handsets of questionable quality, stability and performance, that have been mired by shovelware and awful user interface overlays.

The company has also reneged on its promises to upgrade an entire generation of dual-core handsets released in late 2011 to Ice Cream Sandwich, effectively leaving many of its existing customers in the lurch.

To add insult to injury Google continued to release its own branded smartphones, which begged the question of what the Silicon Valley search giant really intended to do with Motorola's engineering and future handset and tablet plans, especially since Google partnered more and more with companies like Samsung, Asus and LG for its "Nexus" line of products.

Google did eventually try to integrate Motorola into the company, and release a flagship handset, the Moto X, which had the distinction of being manufactured in the United States and having many different unique customizable designs that could be ordered to personalize the look of the product.

Unfortunately, the Moto X was not a big hit in the marketplace. After less than a 2-year romance with the company, it sold Motorola for $2.91B to Lenovo.

Google is retaining much of the patents from Motorola and also the company's research facility, so it isn't a total loss for them. Still, this is a fling that will almost certainly go down as one of the search giant's biggest failures.

#4 - HP & Autonomy

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Leo Apotheker's very short term as HP Chairman and CEO will be always known for the company's $11.1 billion acquisition of Autonomy.

In addition to the scuttling of the TouchPad and the webOS/Palm division at HP, Leo Apotheker's very short term as HP Chairman and CEO will be always known for the company's $11.1 billion acquisition of Autonomy, a European maker of unstructured data analytics software.

At the time the purchase occurred many industry observers were keen on figuring out what HP would do with the technology after the acquisition, and years later HP Enterprise has still not effectively communicated how it fits in to its overall enterprise software strategy.

But the real bombshell came in 2012 when HP, following an internal investigation, alleged that Autonomy had cooked its books and that the software and company was overvalued at time of purchase. HP wrote down the Autonomy purchase as a nearly $9 billion loss, sending HP's stock into a tailspin. While the matter is still part of an ongoing civil court action, and the Autonomy management continues to refute HP allegations, the Autonomy purchase by HP remains the most infamous and wasteful cash spend for a software asset of all time.

This alone probably makes the Autonomy purchase by HP the most infamous and wasteful cash spend for a software asset of all time.

Next up, even worse: #3 and #2 (Coming tomorrow)

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