March 15, 2006

Mandrake founder Gael Duval to sue Mandriva over firing

Author: NewsForge Staff

Mandriva executive Gael Duval today confirmed rumors that he was laid off from the company he co-founded, along with a number of other Mandriva employees. Duval told NewsForge that he is going to bring suit against Mandriva for "abusive layoff."

In an exclusive IRC chat this afternoon, Duval said, "I'm very sad since my new role was pretty exciting. Additionally, seven years ago I created my job and some jobs for many other people, and eventually someone, the current boss, tells me, 'Now you leave.' Ouch!"

Duval said that last year Mandriva CEO Francois Bancilhon asked him to leave the company. Instead, Duval agreed to move from his long-time position as vice president of communication to head a new "community department" intended "to improve Mandriva's image in the open source arena." Now the company has terminated that effort.

He also said that while he and Bancilhon had "diverging opinions" on corporate direction, there was no animosity between the two. We asked Bancilhon about the situation, and he responded this morning, writing:

We announced on March 7 the financial results for Q1 2005-2006 (October-December 2005) and explained the disappointing results of the company and the actions we are taking to fix the situation: cost reduction (including workforce reduction) and new commercial initiatives, both on individual solutions and on enterprise solutions. Gael is part of the positions in the company we have chosen to eliminate. Gael has brought a lot to this company and has been all along a very strong contributor. I am very sorry to see him leave, together with other employees that have worked hard and done their best for Mandriva. We are just at a stage where we need to make difficult decision to improve the company status.

So, to answer your questions, Gael has indeed left the company as part of cost reduction plan implemented this quarter.

Mandriva remains committed to its mission: bring Linux and open source technology to both individuals and organisations.

Duval created Linux-Mandrake in 1998, announcing it on Slashdot.org and elsewhere. The original Mandrake was based on Red Hat Linux and featured a KDE desktop. Mandrake became known as being the easiest-to-use version of Linux. The company flirted with bankruptcy in 2001, but kept hanging on. In 2005, Mandrake merged with Conectiva in an effort by the two distributions to bulk-up against the larger Red Hat and Novell.

Of the company's financial pains, Duval said, "My opinion is that the loss is due to the increase of expenses: many people have been hired in 2005 and early 2006.... As far as I know, none of the new employees have been fired." He agreed with a suggestion that the company was undergoing "a changing of the guard."

Duval didn't speculate on Mandriva's future. "On the first hand, there is some business (management decisions and expenses are another story). On the other hand, I frankly don't know where the company is going.... It seems that the company is going to address the corporate market more and more.... My opinion is that we should have stuck to the roots (individuals and SOHO)."

Duval's future plans -- in addition to the lawsuit -- involve a new open source project called Ulteo. According to Duval, "This project was proposed to Mandriva but not 'selected.' My goal is to provide a new way for people to use operating systems, so they can really concentrate on using it (and not maintaining it)." He also noted that he has received many messages of support from the community.

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