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IPOs Happen: Carl Russo Speaks

PETALUMA, Calif. -- If Calix Networks Inc. wanted to launch an IPO, it could be ready to do so on short notice -- but it's in no rush right now, says Carl Russo, CEO of the access startup based here in Northern California.

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

DocGonzo 12/5/2012 | 3:25:47 AM
re: IPOs Happen: Carl Russo Speaks "I'm collecting bottles of urine."

If this is the LR Quote of the Year, where can I make my donation?

Doc
Stevery 12/5/2012 | 3:26:19 AM
re: IPOs Happen: Carl Russo Speaks or could it be (shock) one or more of their VCs think a party or parties within Calix has managed to sprinkle Gold where it was not supposed to be sprinkled...???

Enlighten me, what sprinkling would be a problem? (ie, I can't think of a situation that couldn't be cleaned up for an S-1, and I'm wondering what you have seen.)
whyiswhy 12/5/2012 | 3:26:19 AM
re: IPOs Happen: Carl Russo Speaks Exactly, sort of. An internal auditor or interface of the Sarbanes Oxley-ilk says to me they have a Sarbanes Oxley-type problem. Why else spend the money?

Disgruntled investor(s)? Inside dealing? Suit pending? Don't know.

One thing for sure its not IPO season for Calix.

-Why

Caveat: JMHO
whyiswhy 12/5/2012 | 3:26:20 AM
re: IPOs Happen: Carl Russo Speaks 2 more likely reasons for internal Sarbanes Oxley audit of a private nowhere near ready for IPO:

or could it be (shock) one or more of their VCs think a party or parties within Calix has managed to sprinkle Gold where it was not supposed to be sprinkled...??? or has tied him or herself (and the company) up in knots with tangled business dealings...???

Spin on Carl!

-Why
alcaseltzer 12/5/2012 | 3:27:19 AM
re: IPOs Happen: Carl Russo Speaks Interesting though that Russo has a similar quote in an April 2000 paper from Stanford on the Cisco/Cerent acquisition.
particle_man 12/5/2012 | 3:27:21 AM
re: IPOs Happen: Carl Russo Speaks "There is really only one reason to IPO -- if you want to acquire another company, you need the currency," says Russo.

Bizarre quote. Better reasons might be:

1) To raise capital to fund expanding sales volumes (inventory and AR/DSOs require capital)

2) To provide a liquidity event for your VC funders. And no, they really don't count as patient capital!
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