FOR SALE: UBM TechInsights
Don Scansen posted on September 17, 2012 |
The grey old lady of reverse engineering is for sale...again.

I'm in Texas at the moment, so I'm taking a break from the weekly news roundup to talk about some other old news.

Sources both inside and outside the UBM TechInsights group from Ottawa (formerly known as Semiconductor Insights) confirmed that the business is officially for sale. The Financial Times corroborates several details of the sale and the reasons behind it. FT cites a report from Investec Securities that suggests the data services division might sell in the neighborhood of 250 million GBP. A look through UBM's lastest financial statements provide sufficient confusion, but the Investec report confirms that the TechInsights group must be a small piece of the pie.

UBM intimated to FT that the data services business was underperforming compared to other branches - primarily the events group which reportedly contributes two-thirds of operating profits. That margins at TechInsights were low was probably no surprise to anyone spending time on the company's web site. The executive team shows nine but additional VPs not listed run the count to a dozen. But that's not the peak. The count of vice presidents has run up to 16 in the past. All this for a company of about 150 souls at its headquarters and at best another 100 worldwide.

Semiconductor Insights - or SI to most - began its life inside Mosaid Technologies as its reverse engineering group. As the potential conflicts of running a design services company and RE house under the same roof became more clear, a new company was born in 1989.

SI's life as a private company ended almost coincidentally with its founder and (see reader  comments below) longtime CEO Doug Smeaton. Doug was a good man respected inside the walls of SI for his leadership, in the broader technology community as well as the rest of our town.

The end came when SI was bought up by a large, London-based media conglomerate. UBM was a big, public company that changed the way most people thought about SI and how it operated. To many inside both buyer and seller and the wider world, the acquisition was confusing. Although there were a stream of allusions to summing two parts to an odd integer number, the company was never a fit. It seems that London finally figured that out and wants to dump them. It appears this was known for some time as a quick look at the corporate structure shows that the TechInsights group has been organized more separately from other parts.

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