Thursday, March 24, 2005

Happy Trails

When we started the agency in 1996, one of our first clients was Forte Software, based in Oakland, CA. Forte had a high-end application development environment and we later helped the company broaden its position around development and application integration.

In August 1999, Sun announced that it would acquire Forte for around $540 million in a stock-for-stock deal. The lure was Forte’s customer base and a Java tool called SynerJ. When the deal closed in October, the value was closer to $700 million, to the delight of Forte shareholders.

We initially prepared to ride into the sunset, as that’s the usual path when a much larger company acquires one’s client. Instead, the Forte acquisition kicked off a terrific five-year relationship with Sun, focusing on developer initiatives and an array of assignments with Sun’s analyst relations team.

And in November 2002, the relationship expanded when Sun acquired another CHEN PR client, Pirus Networks. Our agency had worked with Pirus to establish a strong position in the storage market, with its innovative intelligent switching architecture technology. Immediately following the Pirus acquisition, CHEN was retained to support Sun’s storage analyst relations initiatives.

But all good things come to an end at some point.

Last week, we learned that our relationship with Sun would conclude in June. Sun plans to move from its current multi-agency approach to an anchor agency model. And while Sun acknowledged our great work for them, we’re not a fit under this model, as we’ve never aspired to run multi-million dollar accounts. We’re about strategic, focused programs. To use a basketball analogy, since it’s March Madness, think Final Four versus every college hoops team.

It’s an amicable split, with execs at the highest levels offering to serve as references for us. Sun folks have already offered some of our most blush-worthy comments. And we’re humbled that our friends in the market research and press corps have called us to see how they can be of assistance as we set out to replace the business.

It’s always disappointing to lose a long-term account. But what a ride it’s been. CHEN PR was part of several open source milestones at Sun, including the announcement of the NetBeans open source community in March 2000 and the formation of the GNOME Foundation. We’ve supported Sun through five JavaOnes, three annual analyst conferences and many LinuxWorlds.

More recently, we’ve had the pleasure of supporting the extension of Sun’s tools line with strong product releases such as Java Studio Enterprise 7 and the initial release of Java Studio Creator. We’ve had the honor of hosting Sun luminaries James Gosling and Greg Papadopoulos for Boston-based events.

It has been extremely gratifying to see Sun’s efforts to reinvent itself coming to fruition during the past year, knowing that we’ve played a role in that energetic effort.

Fortunately, we have a portfolio of great clients who count on us for our counsel and services just as Sun has done for so long. We’ll have no problem keeping ourselves busy as we meet with prospective clients and begin work for those with whom we partner.

To that point, no tribute would be complete without our heartfelt thanks to our spectacular Sun account team. You’ve walked through walls for the client, and maintained your passion and humor throughout. The results you’ve generated speak for themselves.

We’re grateful for our many friends and fans at Sun. Thank you for your enduring support. Our friendships transcend the agency/client relationship.

And dinner in Boston is always on us.


At 7:35 PM, Blogger webmink said...

Dealing with CHEN was one of the great pleasures of acting as a Sun spokesperson - careful and responsible execution with a human touch. In the years we worked together there was never an incident where the CHEN team was anything but perfection in industry insight, preparedness and attention to detail. You've all become friends and I'm so sad that we can't work together any more, Barb. Warm wishes for your future.

At 8:14 PM, Blogger Barb Heffner said...

Thank you Simon for your incredibly kind words. We've learned so much from working with you all. Cheers...Barb

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Drew said...

Big hugs and high-fives from Texas. I always figured CHEN PR's unparalleled performance was such that Sun would retain you "until hell freezes over" -- and then the BoSox had to go and win a World Series. Oh well. We'll call it the "curse of Johnny Damon"

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Barb Heffner said...

The long lost Drew! Thanks for stopping by. You must have seen the New York Daily News headline last year when we won the ALCS: "Hell Freezes Over." The Curse of Johnny Damon -- we'll just have to live with that. We love our Cave Man.

P.S. Randy says you still owe him a hat.

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