The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – IBM came calling, wanting to buy SAS.
Jim Goodnight said no – for several reasons.
“I wasn’t willing to sell because I have seen what happens to companies that get swallowed by a bigger company, all their culture disappears, a lot of employees disappear,” Goodnight told Reuters in an interview this week.
Goodnight has often said that the most vital asset at privately held SAS are the people he employs, and SAS is regularly rated as one of the world’s best places to work as a result with very low employee turnover. The company has been profitable from the start three decades ago, and its profits improve each year while revenues reached a record $2.75 billion in 2011.
IBM (NYSE: IBM) was shopping for business analysis/analytics at the time and went on to buy Cognos. Goodnight said in the interview price was never discussed with Big Blue.
“It never got to that point mainly because I did not want them looking at our books,” he said.
IBM declined comment.
However, Goodnight said IBMers approached SAS first.
“Before IBM went on their buying spree they came to us first because they recognized the fact that our solutions were something no one else has, everyone else is just a tool maker,” Goodnight said.
Jim Davis, chief marketing officer at SAS, was with Goodnight during the interview, which took place in New York.
“We met with a couple of media folks to catch up on what is going on in the market from our perspective and how SAS is addressing the opportunities,” Davis told The Skinny. “We also had a couple of customer meetings as well. There was no formal event or announcement. Just catching up with folks while in the city.”
In that interview, Goodnight and Davis pointed out that SAS is continuing its own acquisition strategy of one or two companies per year.
“Typically we acquire companies that move us into domains where we don’t have much expertise,” Davis said.
Goodnight and Davis are asked often about whether the company could be sold or perhaps go public. Goodnight told Reuters that the company surveys staff about the idea of an IPO.
“85 percent said no right after the dot.com bust and that has consistently stayed the same,” he said.
The possibility that Goodnight might retire or whether SAS is planning a succession strategy also came up. Goodnight wouldn’t comment other than to say:
“They have plans to stuff me.”
[SAS ARCHIVE: Check out a decade of SAS stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]