Editor’s note: Just last week SAS announced another year of record revenues, posting $3.2 billion for 2016. That’s nearly TRIPLE the Cary-based software giant posted in 2001 as the tech sector suffered through the “dot com” bust. WRAL TechWire takes a look back at SAS circa 2001 when talk continued that CEO Jim Goodnight was still thinking about taking the company public.
That never happened.
Here’s the story from Feb. 2002, just days after what then was known as Local Tech Wire made its debut:
Not Even SAS Escaped 2001 Unscathed; Profit Increase Likely To Be Lowest in Years
CARY — How bad was the bad year for the high-tech sector?
SAS Institute’s revenue figures — due for release early next week — tell the tale. For the first time in its 25-year history, the company’s yearly revenue increase might fall short of its traditional double-digit figure.
Considered the largest privately held software firm in the world, SAS has enjoyed an unbroken string of revenue increases that often hit 20 percent or more. Last year, it posted revenues of $1.12 billion.
Profits are still there, says spokesman John Dornan, but “we don’t know if the revenue increase will break the double-digit mark.” The company plans to release financial data next week.
The year 2001 was a bit of a letdown for the company that develops datamining and decision support software. In 2000, after years of speculation, it appeared the firm’s chief executive officer and founder, Jim Goodnight, would take SAS public.
The company had begun to act like a public firm. It was converting its accounting system and incorporation status to those used by public firms, spinning off a promising unit working in biometrics and hiring a fast-talking former Oracle executive as president.
The timing seemed perfect. The market was riding high and SAS was continuing to garner publicity for its family-friendly workplace and low staff turnover. And Goodnight, typically hesitant to talk with the press in the past, was throwing open the executive suite doors to interviewers.
But by year’s close, everything was different. Andre Boisvert, the former Oracle exec, left last February — apparently dissatisfied at the pace of change. The spin-off of iBiomatics had failed and the company was brought back into SAS, which resulted in a few layoffs. With the markets in perpetual bear mode, there was no talk of going public. Off-the-record cynics wondered if all the going public talk was a way for Goodnight to keep staff from jumping ship in search of dot.com gold.
‘Going public’ still on the agenda
Dornan says the company is not giving up on going public. “We’re continuing to set up infrastructure to go public and still operating with that goal in mind.”
He says the problems with the iBiomatics had a silver lining. “Some people we were marketing to were more comfortable dealing with SAS.” That gave the company feeling that the SAS name had clout, even in areas it had not been heavily invested in the past (drug development and gene research) And Dornan points out that in an area that has seen almost every major tech company do layoffs, SAS has done some hiring. “We hired about 400 people, mostly sales people. We’re going to be hiring sales and R&D people this year.”
The company continues to build new products and expand into new areas. There is discussion of developing products that can be delivered on wireless platforms, and the firm has an application service provider (ASP) offering to perform daily analysis of retailer’s web sales. The company is also working on upgrades to its existing products.
“I think everyone is glad last year is over,” Dornan says, “and we’re re-investing with hopes of doing well this year.”