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Chapter Two
1982: The Time of Six Presidents


“The Time of Six Presidents” was a time of chaos for Novell and all those involved. The chaos lasted from the dismissal of Jack Davis in December 1981 until Ray Noorda’s arrival as President in January 1983.

The crisis started because the company was not meeting its original goals and it was not profitable. The board responded to the crisis by shuffling top management, again and again, to find a winning combination. During this period approximately six men were declared President of Novell … no one knows the actual number.

The chaos of 1982 was exciting and dramatic. New developments were happening weekly. But it weakened lines of communication, lines of authority, and lines of coordination. This period was exciting and it allowed great change to take place within Novell, but it sure was hard to do business as usual!

Many companies miss a market on the first try. The company must recover and either try again or abandon the effort and try something else. When a startup company misses it is often fatal, because there are no reserves to recover and try again. Because it had deep pockets backing it, Novell did not fail in 1982. But it was on the brink because at times those deep pockets needed a lot to convince them they weren’t throwing good money after bad. By late 1982 there was a lot of doubt and the company was on the block. Time and time again in 1982, only the promise of the LAN saved Novell from oblivion.

A time of chaos is a time for heroes. It is a time for great change, a time for people to do surprising things. In the end the heroes finally came through for Novell, but not without some cliffhangers.

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