Mr. Fixit sells again

Contact: Brenon Daly

Known as a turnaround guy for most of his career, Joe Cowan didn’t actually have too much fixing up to do at his latest posting as chief executive of content management vendor Interwoven. After he took over Interwoven’s top post in early April 2007, the business hummed along with sales growth in the mid-teens and solid profitability. Under Cowan’s leadership, shares of Interwoven dropped just 9%, less than one-quarter the decline posted by the Nasdaq over that same period. And never mind the southbound performance of shares of rival Vignette.

Cowan’s work at Interwoven stands in sharp contrast to earlier postings at Baan and Manugistics, scandal-tainted companies with declining sales and heavy losses. However, the end result of most of his engagements has been the same: a sale of the company. As a testament to the difference in the relative health of the two most-recent exits that Cowan has helped broker, consider that Interwoven is getting valued at twice the price-to-sales multiple of Manugistics. Viewed another way, Interwoven sold for almost 19x EBITDA, compared to closer to 13x EBITDA for Manugistics. We understand that Cowan will be staying on at acquirer Autonomy Corp after the close of the deal, at least for a bit.

CEO Joe Cowan: A tale of two exits

Date Target Acquirer Deal value Price/TTM sales
April 2006 Manugistics JDA Software $211m 1.4x
January 2009 Interwoven Autonomy $775m 2.8x

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase