Dear Charles

An open letter to Charles Wang, founder of Computer Associates (now CA):

I realize I'm probably one of the last people on the planet you want to hear from, but I felt it was important that I write this letter anyway.

We've had our ups and downs, I know. Remember when I interviewed you in the early '90s, and how you enjoyed our encounter so much that you put your arm over my shoulder and grinned as we posed for the picture you insisted be taken of the two of us following the interview? And then just a couple of years later, I found myself on your blacklist because you were incensed by a column I had written that poked fun at you and CA because of some of the goofiness that went on at that year's CA World user conference. It was all in good fun, Charles. I didn't realize you had such a thin skin.

Anyway, Charles, I want to share a quick story with you.

Earlier this month, when I was in San Francisco to attend the Next Generation Data Center conference, I happened to witness history from the periphery.

On the evening of Aug. 7, I was in my hotel room when some bright flashes reflected in the windows of the building across from the hotel caught my eye. At first I thought they were flames, but then I realized they were fireworks. And it finally dawned on me what was happening. Barry Bonds had hit No. 756 at AT&T Park, just a few blocks down Second Street from my hotel.

I turned on the TV, and there indeed was Bonds basking in the adulation. Everything was going the way he probably dreamed it would, until the post-game press conference was well under way and the elephant in the room could no longer be ignored. A reporter asked Bonds if he had a message for Greg Anderson, his former trainer who was sitting in prison less than 40 miles away for refusing to testify in the ongoing investigation of steroid use by major league baseball players.

Bonds' expression turned to stone. "Why are we in this conversation?" he asked. "Just another negative question. I'm not going to get into that."

You probably know where I'm going with this, Charles. As you're no doubt very much aware, just one week later, there was another person sitting in prison while a former associate was living the high life.

That's right, Charles, I'm talking about Sanjay Kumar, your protégé and successor, who pleaded guilty to those accounting fraud charges, and who entered a minimum-security correctional facility in New Jersey on Tuesday to begin paying the 12-year price for his misdeeds.

So as Sanjay languishes in prison, Charles, and you continue to enjoy the good life among the Long Island elite, let me ask you: Do you have a message for Sanjay?

I can just see that icy stare of yours, Charles. Of course you have no message for Sanjay. What could you possibly say to him at this point?

So, Charles, I have a message for you: This isn't right. Sanjay is guilty of some devastatingly poor judgment, but you're the one who shot the illegal performance-enhancing drugs into CA. The Special Litigation Committee of CA's board of directors said it has found that "fraud pervaded the entire CA organization at every level and was embedded in CA's culture, as instilled by Mr. Wang, almost from the company's inception." Your fingerprints are on the needle, Charles.

CA is still waiting for the court to determine whether the company can sue you to recover the millions of dollars in damages you've caused. Hopefully, it'll get the go-ahead, and you'll have to answer for what you've done to CA's customers, employees and shareholders. May that be the message Sanjay receives, Charles. And may it be soon.

Don Tennant is editor in chief of Computerworld. Contact him at don_tennant@


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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