Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

RALEIGH, N.C. – Former Red Hat Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Szulik is not surprised at all that the company he helped build into a global technology success story is contemplating moving from its Raleigh home.

Szulik, who retired earlier this year as chairman after stepping aside as CEO two years earlier to care for his ailing father and late father-in-law, says he faced constant questions from Red Hat’s board about whether to move the Linux software firm to Silicon Valley.

“It never stopped, Rick. It never stopped,” Szulik said in an interview.

“We would have board meetings, I would get up and we would discuss moving the company.”

Red Hat has acknowledged it its looking to grow beyond the space it now leases at North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus, saying it needs more space. Its current CEO, Jim Whitehurst, toured Durham’s American Tobacco Historic District, which is owned by Local Tech Wire and WRAL.com parent Capitol Broadcasting. Red Hat officials also reportedly have looked into space in Atlanta and Austin, Texas.

Szulik fought successfully to keep Red Hat in Raleigh because in part he wanted to demonstrate that a successful high-tech company could be built in the state he adopted as his home.

Why the pressure to move to the Valley?

“First of all, it is a technology hub and a hub for creative talent,” Szulik said. “Certainly, transportation is an advantage. You had ready access to global transportation.

“You also had access to thought leadership and media sources. A drive down Highway 101 would put you in touch with all the smart thought leaders in an industry.”

Szulik fought the pressure to move, believing that Red Hat could help drive more growth in the Research Triangle Park area, which already was home to IBM, Cisco and other tech firms. Over the past decade in which Szulik ran Red Hat, the Triangle continued to grow with NetApp, EMC, Lenovo and so many other firms taking root. Plus, the Triangle’s ever-growing biotechnology industry has added to the region’s allure.

“I always said that if we could do something here that was compelling, then people would be willing to come here, which they did,” Szulik said.

Red Hat not only competed successfully for talent among development engineers but also in sales, marketing and at the board level. Szulik is quite proud of efforts to convince people such as retired General Hugh Shelton, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Steve Albrecht, a global leader in accounting, to help him run the company. (Shelton replaced Szulik as chair shortly after Szulik retired and also played a key role in the recruitment of current CEO Whitehurst. Albrecht served six years on the board.)

Szulik says he still owns shares in Red Hat, but he no longer is involved in the company’s operations.

Asked if Red Hat might move now, he said glumly:

“I can’t offer you any insight on that.”
 

 

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