Acme Packet Sold to Oracle for $2B; Cue Silicon Valley Envy
Oracle owns the Boston tech scene. That’s all I can think of now.
The Larry Ellison machine from Silicon Valley has spent increasing amounts of money to acquire Boston-area icons, including Phase Forward ($685 million), Endeca (about $1 billion), and now Acme Packet—the latter to the tune of $2.1 billion, a 22 percent premium on Acme’s closing stock price on Friday.
The deal is expected to close in the first half of this year. Presumably Oracle will add Acme Packet’s products to its data communications technologies, to try to help big companies deal with the seismic shifts in Internet communications, networking, and IT that are happening across industries. But exactly how that integration will go is anyone’s guess—it’s always a huge, messy challenge, especially with two established companies.
Acme Packet (NASDAQ: APKT) says it’s not doing interviews about the deal. That’s a bad sign, at least for those of us who want to know what’s really happening here.
The Bedford, MA-based networking tech firm started in 2000 and became a leader in session border control—that’s tech stuff that helps telecoms, wireless firms, and enterprises manage voice-over-IP, video, and other data services over the Internet. Acme Packet had its IPO on the Nasdaq in 2006 and has been up and down as a public company since then.
When I met Acme Packet CEO and co-founder Andy Ory in 2011, his company had rebounded from tough times in 2008-09, and it had a market capitalization of some $5 billion. But over the past year or two, the company’s stock has declined and its market cap dipped well below $2 billion, before a bit of a recovery in the past few months.
Back in 2011, Ory acknowledged that losing companies like DEC, Data General, and Wang hurt the Boston tech scene in previous decades. “We exist because of them,” he said. “We stand on their shoulders. And there is an obligation for us to give back to the community so there are businesses that stand on our shoulders.”
Ory has been pretty visible in the tech and business community over the past few years, speaking at events, mentoring entrepreneurs, sharing stories and lessons from his companies, and so forth.
Last March, Ory talked with me about continuing to invest for the long term, and about how having 33 percent revenue growth and nearly $80 million in profits in 2011 wasn’t enough; Acme Packet needed to keep pushing on the enterprise and mobile parts of its business.
And most recently, I spoke with Ory and his co-founder and CTO, Patrick MeLampy, at Acme Packet headquarters towards the end of last year. We talked about the proliferation of mobile devices, especially the iPhone 5 (and 4G LTE), and its impact on the future of Internet communications. We also touched on global issues, most notably the center of gravity “moving away from Europe and to Asia for large communication manufacturers,” as Ory put it.
Acme Packet was pushing 900 employees the last time I checked. At this point, their individual fates in the Oracle machine are unknown. What is known, of course, is that another Boston tech icon, built painstakingly over more than a decade, has joined the Bay Area empire.
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