May 22, 2001

MandrakeSoft loses more than CEO

Author: JT Smith

- by Robin "Roblimo" Miller

It's starting to sound more like a management bloodbath, or as a PR person would probably say, "a major upper-level staff realignment." But whatever words you use, Mandrake seems to have had a sudden change of heart ... err ... management. We are not exactly sure who is now in charge of the popular Mandrake Linux distribution, but hope to find out soon. One positive note: The original rumors we heard about Mandrake laying off "all the desktop developers" are apparently untrue.
The first inkling we got that all was not right in Mandrake-land came in the form of an email from a freelance journalist of our acquaintance who forwarded a rumor purportedly from "French sites" about Mandrake canning its entire desktop development team. NewsForge night editor David Graham, who is fluent in French (at least of the Canadian variety), cruised all the French-language sites he could think of that might carry news of such an event, but saw nothing verifiable.

Meanwhile, NewsForge editor Dan Berkes got Mandrake's California office to admit that MandrakeSoft CEO Henri Poole has departed. Further research put us in contact with several MandrakeSoft insiders who say this is what has gone down so far:

  • The president, CIO, and "other executives" have been fired "as a group."
  • CTO Jean-Loup Gailly is out.
  • All the IS team except one is bye-bye.
  • Some engineers and other "random troops" have either been laid off, taken "voluntary" pay cuts, or have gone from full-time to part-time status.

But the team responsible for developing Mandrake for the desktop, contrary to the rumors, is supposedly going to remain (mostly) intact for the moment. As one Mandrake insider put it, the desktop developers "are still the people who make the product Macmillan [Mandrake's shrink-wrap product distributor] sells that generates income."

Company insiders note that most of the Mandrake managers who were shown the door today are American. One source suggested that this was because "Mandrake can't rationally hope for a U.S. IPO any time soon, so there was no reason to keep a lot of high-cost American managers around. The company is now more French than it has been for the last few years."

Sales and marketing staff were supposedly affected least by the cuts.

Maybe this is an unhealthy display of bias, but in the spirit of full disclosure we must admit that a majority of NewsForge editors use and like the Mandrake GNU/Linux distribution. We are seriously rooting for Mandrake. We want them to keep improving their fine software, and hope they will keep us up to date on any more changes in the company.

We also wish they'd finally ship the Mandrake 8.0 boxed sets they claimed were in stores on May 16, but weren't.

Maybe, under their new CEO, the Mandrake 8.0 "powerpack" version will finally hit the shelves. We're certainly willing to go out and buy a few copies for our own use, and if these numbers can be believed, more than one third of all retail Linux distro buyers are waiting for the next big-time version of Mandrake with breaths as bated as ours.

We'll have follow-ups to this story as they come in. Don't go away!


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