What is the end game for SAS and JHG? Many of you think there will not be an IPO. I believe that as well. I suspect that JHG values the company way more than potential buyers (I can’t say that I blame him—it’s his life’s work) or SAS would have been sold already. As OldSASer points out, SAS has a 3 billion dollar a year revenue stream, which obviously has value. Meanwhile, the consensus seems to be that the company is dying. Even if SAS can’t get new customers, existing customer legacy systems should keep annual revenue in the billions for a good while. So how does JHG cash out or otherwise provide for his heirs in that scenario? Minimize expenses (head count) while milking the part of SAS that makes money for as long as possible? If so, who runs the company when the octogenarian CEO retires? Recognize that SAS is past its sell by date and let it go more cheaply than desired to a buyer who very well might gut it? I was there for the golden era then retired. I feel bad for my colleagues who might have to unexpectedly find new jobs, some potentially late in life. It’s hard to envision an end game that works well for most employees.
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The "real world" has bad managers, but SAS has an unusually high percentage "without appropriate educations or skill sets".
This management culture has determined the endgame. Their main job was to grow revenues, but revenues have not grown.
That prevents a "growth stock" IPO like Google's or Amazon's. For SAS, an IPO is just a public sale, like a private sale to Broadcom, and likely to have similar results.
The best time to sell a declining asset is ASAP. But now's not a great time to sell. A recession could delay a sale until 2025, probably not much longer.
After the sale will come the layoffs that happen after any software company is sold.
For those of us who worked hard trying to build lasting value, this endgame is deeply saddening. Many of us wish we had not spent quite so many years at the company.
It's worse for our friends still there. But the timing may work out for them. Those who need only a couple of years to retire will probably get that. The rest probably have a couple of years in which to prepare to join the "real world".
Think we could all win the worst manager argument. Very rarely did I see a good manager or executive (with mostly rational decision making for long-term growth of the company's financial and career growth of his/her people rather than mostly political turf protection decision making), and if I did, that person had to "break rank" and establish a sub-culture or sub-system. But of course, that cannot last when the system isn't build to allow that sort of success. They would run into the brick wall of bizarre reality-denying political decision making. As a result, most were just sycophants with no real skills other than spouting back B.S. to the emperor. I don't know how they live with that kind of lack of personal integrity. Maybe they are also on here blaming their own manager. Or maybe they realize they now have no real skill other than bluffing it, so cannot leave and are holding on for a few more years - certainly not the worst idea if you're a year or so away from retiring. For the rest of you, I'd strongly encourage you to join the real world again. It's not all wine and roses out here, but for the most part, executives and managers and orgs really do try to deal with business reality with some transparency about the strategy, the pros, the cons, etc. There are still lots of bad ones, but at least you can understand what they are trying to do, and refreshingly, mostly the bad ones only rise to a certain point according to the Peter Principle or end up having to move on. They cannot linger and get ever more incompetent and career/value-destroying by bluffing the king.
Many of us could try to 'compete' with one another about who had the 'worst' management team. My experience went from being managed by one set of competent managers with the appropriate education and skill sets for the role, to being managed by a set of incompetent 'adult children' without the appropriate educations or skill sets for their roles. It was mind-boggling to watch one individual in particular ascend the corporate ladder, all while giving off this 'I'm so kind and nice' vibe that no one could assail; they were a cartoon character.
Discussing difficult topics and coming to agreement with this manager in particular was like talking to a recalcitrant 12 year old who would fold their arms, shake their heads, and deflect anything that wasn't gentle 'cooing' at them. Business decisions were made via triangulation, where employees would request holding open meetings with stakeholders, only to have this individual run a bunch of 'back-channel' communications, cherry-picking what was said to each party. Then a decision would be foisted upon us, with no open discussion.
In the end, this manager continued to ascend, building a department akin to a perpetual day camp where all the children stood around a campfire, sang 'Kumbaya', held hands, laughed, and roasted marshmallows together. It sounds like hyperbole, but it was that ridiculous. For whatever reason, this person had a 'protected' aura surrounding them, but it was never clear why. They were clearly incompetent.
All the while, employee skills in the company, and in the department, were deteriorating. We were kept isolated from customers and unable to use the skills and tools necessary to do our jobs effectively there, or in the wider market. How do you move forward after you realize your role there was nothing more than being an NPC in a 'Potemkin village'? You don't. You have to start over, possibly in a different career. But, stupid me, I was warned prior to joining, I just didn't believe the message because of all the 'we're so awesome!' PR hype.
With the description above, why would anyone think that an IPO would is a viable possibility?
I read about the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and I realize I am living it, but I fear it is too late for me to get out. My skills have eroded over time and I have of course, gotten older. For the last few years I was holding on for a few reasons: IPO, possible early retirement, atrophied skills, etc. Now I think I just have to ride it out till the end and then find a new line of work. I used to hope to leave SAS with a mini golden parachute. Now I just wanna leave alive!
OldSASser I assure you the management in my group is a thousand times worse than yours. for specific reasons I can't get into. Seeing it go on year after year for more than a decade when it's widely known and nothing is done about it destroyed any bit of remaining hope for a positive outcome. This is the start of a long painful Nortel like decline. it will go on unto it becomes too embarrasing to keep limping along.
I see four possible endgames:
- return to growth, via new revenue streams
- continued decline, while the owner holds on
- private sale, to Broadcom or similar
- public sale, via IPO
I guess we've all given up on a). I tried my best to help SAS start new revenue streams. So did others, smarter than me. The politics make it impossible.
For employees, b) is the best endgame, because that enables more of them to retire. Rather than clinging to power, JHG could be seen as unusually kind to his employees, because anyone else would do a mass layoff. But would you be kind to your employees, or your children?
Private buyers have not offered an acceptable price, and they've had plenty of time. So c) seems unlikely, though it could still happen.
That's why I believe d) is most likely. The IPO may well be postponed, if market conditions continue unfavorable. But an IPO brings in multiple buyers, so might bring in the best price. I assume that's the reason for it.
I see no reason to assign malice to management decisions. You don't give your designated successor seven years to succeed, unless you hope and believe he will succeed. It didn't work, that's all.
When not actively discussing layoffs, this forum has provided some therapy. I believe that I had all the worst managers at SAS. Clearly, I'm not the only one who had a bad experience. Some of you may believe that you had the worst managers. Perhaps we worked together :-)
I regret the sad times and the lost potential, but talking with kindred spirits helps. Thanks, and good luck to all.
It's unfortunate that Robert Caro is too old to write a book about JHG and SAS. He's already written extensive tomes about similar characters, however. Both of Caro's literary subjects thrived at creating monuments to themselves, much like JHG has done with SAS and it's products.
SAS was never going to be sold, nor was there ever any intent to sell it. Any sales talk was simply an effort to 'flirt with suitors' as part of a corporate 'mating game'. Am I still attractive enough to land suitors?
SAS is a monument to JHG. No one will get the opportunity to make SAS as good as JHG once made it. JHG birthed it, controls it, and will carry it to his grave, along with fond memories of 'Best Places To Work' awards and 'XX Years of Revenue Growth' proclamations.
That, unfortunately, is what I believe the endgame is.
There is no end game. JG waited too long to try to sell the company, period. Now nobody wants it. Working here now feels like slow death. I was at Nortel in the first few years of its decline and this feels like that. It's depressing and tough to get motivated to work on the software when I can feel the company falling apart. Never expected I would experience this again especially here. Depressing.
The lack of success SAS has had in locating a successor to JHG reveals what to expect from the IPO, which is absolutely nothing. The successor talk has been going on for decades and employees have been reassured many times that 'there is a plan', but reality tells us a different story. I can't predict the future, but the companies past behavior can reveal what we can expect, and that is more corporate talk that isn't in alignment with reality.
What's the end game? Well, let's see...
- Take a company full of 'vanity-ware' products;
- Built on 'expert opinion', not outside feedback;
- Which uses outdated, proprietary technology available elsewhere for less;
- Managed by cult-leader programmers and sycophants with questionable business skills;
- Servicing legacy near end-of-life customer systems;
- Who define 'success' as 'revenue growth', ignoring the remainder of the ledger;
- While 'cutting their way to prosperity';
Opening the books on that 'winning formula' sounds like an invitation to have your ego and vanity smashed into a million pieces. Perhaps that's too much for JHG's well-curated, beneficent persona to handle.
String the sheep along and maintain control. It's worked this long, and the sheep will continue to believe it, so why not? Every now and then, perhaps quarterly when numbers come in, release some of the sheep who eat too much, or who those who didn't 'baaaa' loud enough at the party meetings. Have the internal secret police mark and release the blackest sheep monthly. Call these sacrifice rituals 'Preparing for the IPO'. Baa! They'll buy it.
The dude has plenty of money, and there's plenty of replacement sheep available. He can run the clock until his ticker runs out. Then it's someone else's problem. Tick-tock, tick-tock.