Citrix is in a ho-e it may not get out of. It has a set of products that didn’t keep pace and continue to lose relevance. The pace of industry change over the last ~5 yrs. caught leadership off-guard, coupled with a very different Microsoft no longer interested in super closed ecosystems (Ballmer’s Microsoft gave Citrix a long lease on life). Naturally, leadership’s job was to lay out a clear strategy for the company and use the sizable war chest to prevent this situation but that didn’t happen. None of the existing products provide a credible path to growth. The only interested buyers would gut the company, keep a small customer support crew and milk renewals for as long as possible (there are a few companies that specialize in this space). There might also be some licensable IP. There is zero interest from anyone to buy the technology/products because there are better and cheaper options. Unless Citrix figures out a way to sell at a discount, or there is some genius financial engineering, there is little chance it will find a buyer in this frothy market.
How did we get here?
1 - The canary in the coal mine is the fact that only a tiny percentage of Citrix employees use Citrix, since at least 10 yrs ago. Sure, as a point solution to apps that one couldn’t get to from the local desktop (SAP?)- but that was it. If you don’t use your own tech products, you know something is not quite right.
2 - Citrix always sold to and appealed to IT infrastructure managers. Quick solution to deploy problematic apps in a somewhat effective way. But the infrastructure is now going to cloud providers who can stream desktops and apps on the cheap - with features and functionality that easily rival whatever Citrix has. The new buyers are gone. Would a company created today, or during the last decade, need Citrix? The answer is no.
3 - The lure of “easy” money over hard work/high risk was too much for the leadership (looking at you DH). Easier to roll acquired products/technologies as value-add fillers to enterprise and platinum license editions to convince customers to continue renewing or “trade-up”. Some of the acquisitions could have delivered high growth and top line in their own right, but the stomach to invest and risk was never there.
4 - Leadership and strategic changes that stalled the company. A mix of bringing in the wrong outside talent combined with shrewd long term insiders that sabotaged new, risky initiatives. Would a new, risky pívot work? We will never know. But the Zoom market cap is multiples CTXS. Hmmm.
5 - No strategy. Duh! Financial metrics became THE strategy. As a public company, if you have a compelling strategy, investors will overlook short/medium term financials knowing you will come through. Citrix has no strategy and no values (otherwise, why rebrand every two years?). So, if you have no strategy, investors are right to demand you maximize your short term financial performance and return money to shareholders. Enter Elliot! Efficient resource utilization and financial management are now the core competencies.
6 - “Growth” from the last few years is a bunch of smoke and mirrors. Clever price increases and nice tricks with license trade-ins/upgrades have created a barely credible illusion of “organic growth” and “customers migrating to our cloud products”. But Elliot is back. Someone smells a fish.
So - yes, the culture is toxic. The managers can be cut-throat. Typical of companies that are no longer growing and are on their way down. Managers are under huge pressure to deliver the numbers. Individuals are stretched thin. Leaders are freaking out, and when they freak out, they micromanage. That means more TPS reports and more often. All of it a vicious cycle and part of the death spiral.
The dream? To find a buyer that takes Citrix off the public eye, relieves pressure, and gives people the time and space to reimagine the company. If there are people that can do that, none of them are in the existing executive team. Do they exist? We shall see.