IPOs Happen: Carl Russo Speaks
Light Reading noted in November that Calix was recruiting a Sarbanes-Oxley compliance specialist and could be getting set for an IPO (see Calix Picking Public Beancounters).
It turns out this is at least partially true, Light Reading learned from a conversation Tuesday with Russo at Calix headquarters.
Russo, the one-time Light Reading Mover & Shaker, says the Sarbanes-Oxley officer is needed for two reasons: to streamline the company's accounting processes and to be ready to raise public money quickly should the need arise.
"There is really only one reason to IPO -- if you want to acquire another company, you need the currency," says Russo.
But Russo laughs off the idea that hiring the “officer” is a direct precursor to the company going public. And he points out that there are plenty of other reasons to upgrade the accounting systems.
“Sarbanes-Oxley is a pain in the ass, but it’s necessary; it is verification that you are doing things correctly internally,” Russo says. Russo claimed that Calix can now close the company's quarterly books in "one day" due to recent investments in accounting systems.
He also said that Calix wants to get started on the Sarbanes-Oxley compliance work now, so that it could be ready to pounce on an acquisition if the opportunity presented itself. “We can’t tell them ‘yes, we want to acquire you -- we’ll be back in 15 months.' ”
But Russo says he has no love for the idea of going public.
“I love studying the earnings reports of my competitors and listening to the conference calls. You can learn a lot about your competition by reading their quarterly earnings reports,” Russo says. “So why would I want to give away that kind of information if I don’t have to?”
Russo is somewhat of a legend among telecom types in Petaluma, situated in the rolling farmland North of San Francisco. Russo, one of the original personal investors in Calix, joined the executive ranks of the company two years ago after a corporate reorganization. He is best known for selling his old company, Cerent, to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) for an unprecedented $6.5 billion in 2000.
Russo also garners press for his prized possession of an $18 million Citation V jet and his accomplishments on the race-car track. In fact, Russo's exploits were recently featured in BusinessWeek, in which he appeared posing Howard Hughes-like in front of his multimillion-dollar jet. Of the photo opp and his uncanny resemblance to a reclusive aviation magnate, Russo said: "Yes, I'm washing my hands more... and I'm collecting bottles of urine."
Also making the rounds in Calix HQ was a vintage picture of Russo with a tall afro-style haircut. Someone has placed that image on the wall outside of Russo's cube -- along with a photo of Buckwheat from the Little Rascals (regrettably -- or perhaps not regrettably at all -- our analog film capturing this juxtaposition could not be converted to digital format in time for this article).
Calix has raised $297 million in venture capital since its inception in 1999. Russo says Calix now has roughly 200 employees, and is raising more than $100 million a year in revenue.
— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading