Ethernet equipment

Bobby Johnson's Greatest Hits

So, Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) is about to get swallowed up by Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) What a long, strange trip it's been for Foundry CEO Bobby Johnson.

Brocade officials have freely said the $3 billion deal is an assault on Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). (See Brocade Takes Aim at Cisco (& Juniper).) But details? "Wait for our analyst day on Sept. 17 in San Jose" has been the stock answer.

With Brocade ready to talk turkey and the deal likely to close soon, it seems reasonable to reflect back on Johnson's tenure. After all, you could say it's his company. He was the founding CEO in May 1996, and for years analysts said Foundry wasn't likely to get acquired because Johnson flat-out didn't want to sell.

So, here's a non-chronological scan of the headline-grabbing moments Johnson and Foundry have enjoyed (or not) during Light Reading's eight-year tenure.

1. Got bought by Brocade
Which you already knew, unless you're completely not paying attention.

2. Didn't get bought by Juniper
Whether that's good or bad is a decision left to the reader. Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) seemed hotter for Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) anyway, and analysts agreed Johnson wasn't in a selling mood. (See Juniper's Extreme Thoughts Are Back and Extreme Thoughts.)

3. Allegedly dispatched fake "work harder" memo
It was fun while it lasted. (See Headcount: A Free Lunch?.)

4. Ditched core routing
Think Avici (now Soapstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SOAP)), Charlotte's Web, Chiaro, Hyperchip Inc. (still alive!), and Procket. Thumbs up on this move. (See Judgment Day for Foundry Core Router and Foundry Retreats from the Core.) But that was then ...

5. Re-entered core routing
Sensing the nuclear winter was ending, Foundry emerged from the bomb shelter with the NetIron IMR 640 in 2005, and piled on the 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports with the XMR 32000 in 2006. (See Foundry Strikes at the Core and Foundry Claims Core Crown.)

6. Abdicated the chairmanship
Foundry got caught in the stock options backdating scandal like almost everyone else. The answer? Split up the CEO and chairman duties, apparently, and that's what Foundry did last year. (See Options Scandal Singes Foundry.)

7. Got sued
A sexual harassment suit filed in 2000 wasn't exactly a high point. The case was settled the following year. In an unrelated move, shareholders ganged up on Foundry right around the same time, making for a tough year all around. (See Ex Foundry VP Sues Company, CEO, Foundry Harassment Suit Settled, and Foundry Slapped With Shareholder Suit.)

8. The IPO
Taking a company public has to count among the highlights of any CEO's career, right? Foundry hit the Nasdaq in 1999 and, like its peers, peaked in 2000 before starting the Tower of Terror ride afterward. It's tripled in value since October 2002, if you happened to buy at the bottom.

Any regrets for Johnson? We've got a couple of possibilities:

Johnson intends to stick around Brocade after the merger, but the early money's on him leaving after the obligatory year. We'll see what he and Brocade have to say.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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