Ransom Love out of business he co-founded in 1994

In June, Ransom Love, the co-founder, CEO and president of the former Unix company Caldera Systems Inc., resigned his leadership roles in the business to head Caldera's involvement in the UnitedLinux venture with three other Linux vendors (see story).

Just a month later, Love quietly left Caldera's UnitedLinux project and is now unemployed.

In an interview today with Computerworld, Love, 43, said he left Caldera, which has since renamed itself The SCO Group (see story), after helping to get the pieces in place for leadership changes.

"It was somewhat of a mutual decision," he said of his departure. Love had worked with Caldera's board of directors during the past few years through an initial public offering, the acquisition of the Unix software and services divisions of The Santa Cruz Operation Inc. in 2000 (see story), and finally through the downturn in the economy.

"Going through that, it's tough, and you have to fight your battles," Love said. "And at some point, you're both beating each other's heads."

Love said he then began helping to find his replacement at Caldera and to plan his own exit. "It was time," Love said.

Darl McBride, formerly president of an online planning unit at personal and organizational effectiveness firm FranklinCovey Co., became Caldera's president and CEO in June as Love moved over to run Caldera's UnitedLinux program.

Love's assignment didn't last long, however, ending in late July when he cut his ties and walked away.

"I basically signed up to get some of the components in place that were missing," Love said, citing the development of requirements for new members in the UnitedLinux effort.

He also helped with the hiring of the first-ever general manager for the UnitedLinux effort, whose appointment was announced today at a news conference. Paula Hunter, formerly of Xevo Corp., a Marlborough, Mass.-based service management software vendor, is taking the reins as UnitedLinux prepares to release its first version of the standardized business Linux operating system by the end of the year (see story).

The move to bring in a general manager for UnitedLinix was apparently bad news for Love's continued work on UnitedLinux with Caldera.

"Once you hire a general manager, there's no reason for me to be in that role," he said. "At that point, I just stepped out of the picture."

The companies made no official announcement of Love's departure in July.

Since leaving his job, he said he's been attending management seminars and writing a book on the history of Linux from the perspective of its commercialization.

"I'm using the time very well to do a few things that I have not had the time to do for a long time," he said.

Hunter said today that Love was "instrumental" in getting the UnitedLinux effort to its position today, just several months from releasing its first version of the software. The UnitedLinux board of directors chose to hire someone from outside the four companies that are involved to prevent any conflict of interest, she said.

Bob Bench, the chief financial officer at The SCO Group, said today that Love's departure had been planned back in June when he handed the keys for Caldera over to McBride. "[Love] wanted to get UnitedLinux in place," Bench said. "He had been working on that for a year and a half."

George Weiss, an analyst with Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said Love's departure was not unexpected.

"I sensed that he was on the way out" because the company's performance and strategy were not doing well, he said. "I can see that the board wanted to oust him, so I can see this was a somewhat convenient mechanism."

Weiss said that since the concept of UnitedLinux was essentially Love's idea, it ultimately helped lead to his departure. "Apparently, he had a fallout" with both Caldera's and UnitedLinux's directors, he said.

Now, though, with UnitedLinux missing its most recognizable name, the effort has no major IT figure to move it forward. That could be a real problem for the product, Weiss said. "The nails are starting to get hammered into the coffin" of UnitedLinux, he said. "If they don't get [big-name] people to do this, they're not going to go anywhere. UnitedLinux, I would consider, is in turmoil."

Love held various positions within the company before becoming president and CEO of Caldera in 1998. He has a bachelor's degree in international relations and an MBA from Brigham Young University.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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