Mandriva team is at the moment in a very bad situation.
No real strategy and no decision for a while now, even if CEOs have changed several times these last months. Hervé Yahi, end of 2008 (now CS0), Stanislas Bois (was CFO before), then now Arnaud Laprévote.
Just want to recall that Mandriva is having financial problems for years. On January 13, 2003, the company management has declared a cessation of payments, which meant it was no longer able to meet its liabilities with available assets. After an observation period of several months a reorganization plan was decided by the Commercial Court and a court agent called “Commissioner for implementing the plan” has been nominated for ensuring that the time schedule of debts and improving the situation of the company is proceeding according to what had been arrested by the court. The plan is there to repay creditors and exit this situation. If the plan is executed smoothly, previous debts (the plan) will be completely cleared (and there are some deadlines to be set) and the company will leave definitely this process of insolvency. It will then continue its normal life. Management of Mandriva will have to find a way of managing more effectively than in the past to avoid repeating the problems. However, if the company fails to meet deadlines of the plan, the management of Mandriva will then re-declare the cessation of payments. The judge will then end the reorganization plan process and will open by the same one a bankrupt process, under Article L. 631-20-1 of the Commercial Code. This means stopping the activity of Mandriva, the immediate repayment of debt and termination of employees within 15 days for economic reasons … unless the continuation of the activity is decided to consider the sale of company to a third party, by adopting a transfer plan. In this case, the transfer of undertaking is not limited to any transfer of assets: it includes commitments to maintain employment (Article L. 642-1 para. 1 of the Commercial Code) and goes with the assignment of contracts needed to sustain the activity.
While he was mandated by the main shareholder Occam Capital (and its representative Marc Goldberg, President of the Board of Mandriva), Herve Yahi was looking for potential buyers, unsuccessfully it seems. However in November 2009, the iEurope company (idoo portal) proposed a plan but no action had been given by Mandriva.
A recent “leak” (although I don’tknow if it really was unintentional or not, because it can be a way to get interest of potential buyers) of a report of the Board of Mandriva has publicly revealed that discussions were underway between the direction of the company and two companies: Lightapp and Linagora.
I have had no information on the draft Lightapp by Arnaud Laprévote, so I can not comment this project. Regarding Linagora the interest shown by Alexander Zapolsky for Mandriva is not new, a first attempt failed in 2007.
These last days, the projects have emerged and tensions were very high among employees of Mandriva.
The ghost of a foundation is back on center stage with Wallix (with apparently participation of François Bancilhon and Stanislas Bois in a way that I do not know yet), but if this project was presented to Mandriva, nothing has been done towards the community and again, Arnaud Laprévote did not want to say anything. However, this project seemed very badly put together, including that little should be done regarding social part and business part does not show any modification. Employees reactions have been very mixed (it is a euphemism …).
IEurope also came back to the front of the stage, offering to surrender nearly one and half million euros, but before declaration of insolvency (thus cutting off the foot for a possible takeover) with support rather unexpected of Occam Capital! But again, my little finger told me that the employees were quite reluctant to accept this solution that does not seem to maintain at least the medium term interests of the group’s employees adequately, and the philosophy of Mandriva Linux.
Confidences I have had, these projects did not inspire much confidence.
Remaingin Linagora. I’ll talk to you today because Alexander Zapolsky was the only one to propose a conference of more than one hour of very interesting exchanges. This is a proof if it was needed that this completely artificial omerta maintained by Arnaud Laprévote on the situation allows him only to avoid answering questions that anger and that’s the impression we had Oliver and me as a result of interviews he has given us.
About the project Linagora, I said that the few lines I will outline are only wide guidelines and that the final project including the social and rehabilitation of the business have not been presented, for obvious confidentiality reasons and also to avoid a stupid escalation before the Commercial Court on the question of what the project would be the best economic and social plan.
Linagora is a company known in the open source software world where profits are more important than Mandriva, althoug, I agree, main activity is not the same. For Alexander Zapolsky, Mandriva must go back as one of hte first Linux distribution and get back its image erased by years of poor management and competition filled the room left by Mandriva. His project follows two axes: Community and business.
Regarding the community, Alexander Zapolsky would like to go back to the fundamentals of the philosophy of free software and offer a “free free” in his words: open source software and free. The commercial products such as Flash or Powerpack are “supposed” to disappear because of too low profits and proprietary software packages asking for license fees (like DVD player) would be available on an online store. On this last point, Oliver and I are speaking with Alexander Zapolsky as we disagree. We believe that these products deserve to be kept with some important modifications, particularly to allow Mrs Michu to have a computer that works “out of the box” (PWP) or maintain a technological product that is sold little because few highlighted (Flash).
The aim of Alexander Zapolsky is for him to simplify the Mandriva offer (which is a good thing) and make more reliable products focusing even more on integration. The main lines of the distribution will still be proposed by the community and led by the company and because of that, he wants to give more importance to Cooker to promote development around the distribution.
In business part of his plan, Alexander Zapolsky wishes melt some of its products as those with OBM or LinID Mandriva (Pulse, etc..), as they are complementary and could therefore be renamed to reveal the fusion of the two entities. The advantage of having a distribution in its area of expertise can offer a complete offer to customers of “Mandragora” (this is not a final name but one to be used in discussion), all vertical from distribution to the application. Quality of products developped by Mandriva is seen as standards compliant and Alexander Zapolsky wanted to keep the Brazilian part of Mandriva, which is definitely a strong point of this project further.
In our case, Olivier and I have heard a lot about the proposed projects, disagreement and tension of employees and employees representatives of Mandriva are very strong. As it stands, Alexander Zapolsky proposed the best project on social aspects and development aspects of the company, which will have to be of course confirmed in final draft to be submitted at the commercial court if option of a business transfer is possible. The others just wanted to use clearly Mandriva as a springboard to promote something else (enter the free market in particular) and the social aspect was sometimes nonexistent according to our sources. Mandriva is today more than fifty employees, both in France and Brazil and their future is capital.
Future is far to be decided. Will the actual management team declare the termination payments? While this seemed acquired these days, it has clearly not been done. The future of the employees seems to play no part inside, and angry is growing internally. The community is, too, listening and solution that does not adequately preserve its commitment to the distribution could cause a visceral reaction and lead to a fork to empty the company of its substance and fork Mandriva Linux.