Less than zero?

The company once known as MathSoft has been cancelled out by the following equation: 1 – 0.5 – 0.5 = 0. The firm made its first subtraction in early 2001, with the divestiture of its core technical calculations software business. That was followed up last week with the sale of the remaining chunk of the company – which sold data analysis software under the name Insightful Corp – to Tibco for $25m. (Along the way, Insightful further whittled off a small sliver of its business, some search assets it sold to Hypertext Solutions, which now does business as Evri, for $3.7m last year.)

If the name MathSoft seems only vaguely familiar, it’s because the old-line firm hasn’t existed for seven years, at least not under its original name and original business. Founded in 1984, the Massachusetts-based company emerged as MathSoft two years later. And while it’s too soon to say whether Tibco’s tiny purchase of Insightful will pay dividends, the former had better hope the acquisition goes smoother than the last one involving Insightful’s CEO. Before running Insightful, Jeff Coombs headed up marketing at Acta Technology – a startup selling ETL technology that was snapped up by Business Objects in mid-2002 for $65m.

Actually, that deal ended up costing Business Objects a fair bit more, in both money and time. The reason? Just a week after the deal was inked, ETL powerhouse Informatica filed a patent infringement case against Acta. That worked its way through the courts for the following four and a half years, until a jury decided a year ago to award Informatica $25m in damages. Tibco, too, has had courtroom headaches from one of its deals, picking up a company that was later sued in the widespread lawsuit over share allocations of IPOs in the bubble era. So both the buyer and seller in this deal have firsthand experience with negative additions through acquisitions. 

Subtraction from MathSoft

Date Event Price
Jan. 2001 Divestiture of core education products division $7m
August 2007 Surviving company Insightful sells search assets $3.7m
June 2008 Insightful sells to Tibco $25m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase