The embattled SCO Group has reached an agreement with a private equity firm that plans to provide the vendor as much as US$100 million and take SCO private.
SCO, nearly ruined by its own litigation rampage that ended with a federal judge ruling that Novell owned the Unix copyright, has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy since September.
Yesterday, however, Stephen Norris Capital Partners (SNCP) and partners from the Middle East stepped up with US$100 million and a reorganization plan for SCO that includes new product lines.
The private equity firm, which is based in New York, said it would see SCO's legal claims "through to their full conclusion."
Beginning April 29, Federal Judge Dale Kimball will preside over a four-day trial to determine what SCO owes Novell. Kimball ruled on Aug. 10, 2007 that Novell owned the Unix and UnixWare copyrights. SCO had claimed ownership during a very public campaign aimed at collecting royalties from IBM, Novell and others.
In 2003, SCO claimed that Linux was an illegal derivative of Unix, which SCO said it had purchased from Novell in 1995.
SCO's undoing came from its own bravado and strategy to focus on lawsuits instead of product development. SCO sells Unix-based software technology and mobile services, including UnixWare for enterprise applications and SCO OpenServer for small and midsize businesses.
This is the second offer SCO has entertained to rescue the company. In October, SCO received an offer of US$36 million from JGD Management for its business and intellectual property. JGD Management, a debtor of SCO, is an investing arm of York Capital Management, which owned more than 91,000 shares of SCO stock from March 2005 to September 2006. The deal ultimately fell through.
In November, SCO bounced back, releasing an upgrade to its OpenServer 6 Unix server even while dealing with bankruptcy.
Jeff Hunsaker, president and chief operating officer of SCO, said in a statement: "Not only will this deal position us to emerge from Chapter 11, but it also marks an exciting future for our business. This significant financial backing is positive news for SCO's customers, partners and resellers who continue to request upgrades and rely upon SCO's Unix services to drive their business forward."
SCO's board of directors already has unanimously agreed SNCP's financing and plan of reorganization is best in the long-term for SCO, its subsidiaries, customers, shareholders, creditors and employees, according to the statement.
"We saw a tremendous investment opportunity in SCO and its vast range of products and services, including many new innovations ready or soon to be ready to be released into the marketplace," SNCP managing partner Stephen Norris, said in the statement. "We expect to quickly develop these opportunities, and to stand behind SCO's existing base of customers and partners."
In 2003, SCO targeted its first legal fight over Unix royalties at IBM, filing a US$1 billion copyright infringement suit claiming IBM had violated SCO's rights by contributing Unix code to Linux.
Microsoft joined the fray shortly thereafter, agreeing to license Unix code from SCO and then using the association to fuel confusion over open source licenses and the liability they could carry for corporate users.
SCO eventually sent letters to some 1,500 large companies warning them that their use of Linux could infringe on SCO's intellectual property.
SCO then turned on Novell, suing the company in 2004 alleging that Novell falsely claimed it owned rights to Unix.