Intel Corp. CEO Paul Otellini apparently likes to keep his word.
After announcing one of the biggest -- and by many accounts, most unexpected -- technology deals of 2010, the chipmaker chief promised to run security software developer McAfee Inc. as a standalone business. It made some sense; after all, McAfee is a leader in a technology market far removed from semiconductors, and the notion of keeping it a separate subsidiary helped placate confused investors to some degree.
An unusual facet of Intel's pledge is the fact that its new business unit, acquired for $7.68 billion in February, continues to strike acquisitions of its own. McAfee was relatively ambitious in its dealmaking pre-Intel, announcing nine transactions in the three years before being bought out itself, and it appears to be keeping its own M&A ball rolling. Earlier this month, McAfee agreed to purchase privately held NitroSecurity Inc., a designer of analytical tools to detect security threats, for a reported $160 million.
This follows McAfee's purchase in April of Sentrigo Inc., a startup whose technology protects databases from hackers. These transactions came together because the company has largely held on to its corporate development team through the Intel deal, says McAfee senior director of M&A and general corporate counsel Dan Vaughn.
"The infrastructure that was in place for M&A activity before McAfee was acquired by Intel remains in place today," says Vaughn, who worked on the NitroSecurity deal and has been with McAfee for about three years.
As it was before Intel closed the deal in February, McAfee's corporate development team is headed by Gerhard Watzinger, the executive vice president of corporate strategy and business development who joined the company back in 2007 via its $350 million acquisition of Dutch startup SafeBoot Holding BV. The unit retained its general counsel Mark Cochran, to whom Vaughn reports, as well as its own board of directors, populated by both McAfee and Intel executives. It has two chiefs: co-presidents Michael DeCesare, the company's former vice president of global operations, and Todd Gebhart, who heads its consumer, global and small-business units. They replaced former McAfee CEO David DeWalt, who was president of the unit post-closing and resigned in July.
On the dealmaking front, there is some interplay with Intel's software and services group (Renee James, the Intel senior vice president in charge of this group, is also chairman of McAfee) to identify targets, Vaughn says, but from there on in, it's all McAfee.
"In terms of identifying M&A candidates, our corporate development team is very actively involved in building the pipeline," he says. "Once we've identified a target, execution happens at the McAfee level."
It's not particularly surprising. After all, one of the most prevalent descriptions of the Intel-McAfee deal following its announcement last year was "head scratcher." What was a chipmaker doing spending a bushel of money on a big security software developer, putting together two breeds of technology companies with different customers, development cycles and market opportunities?
But it makes a certain amount of sense to take a hands-off approach to avoid mucking up a big, unusual deal like this. Besides, large, successful, diversified security software companies tend to grow successfully through acquisitions. Who better to do deals than a bunch of guys with experience in the industry?
"It's not unprecedented when you have a group that does something so different from the rest of the company," says one adviser on the NitroSecurity transaction. "Valuations in security are so different than valuations of chip companies." Other technology companies have maintained a similar arrangement after a major security acquisition.
In fact, it happened with EMC Corp.'s $2.1 billion purchase of RSA Security Inc. in 2006. Though a unit of EMC, RSA still has its own internal team that coordinates acquisitions, such as the purchase earlier this year of NetWitness Corp., a network security analysis software startup.
Despite Intel's measured approach to absorbing McAfee, the companies are collaborating on technology, and they have provided a glimpse of their future together. Intel last month unveiled DeepSafe, a technology jointly developed with McAfee, which Intel claims will move security "beyond the operating system" and closer to the silicon, thus taking a step nearer to hard-wiring security into hardware.
Another apparent Intel influence on McAfee: its choice of legal counsel. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC has generally been McAfee's firm of choice, as it was when Intel acquired the company and in many of the security firm's prior transactions, including its 2008 purchase of Secure Computing Corp. for $487 million. For its NitroSecurity deal, at least, it has gone with Morrison & Foerster LLP, Intel's firm of choice.
NBGI Private Equity appointed food and drinks industry veteran Tim Kelly as a senior adviser. For other updates launch today's Movers & shakers slideshow.
Blackstone Real Estate and DDR divide 46 shopping centers in a $1.46 billion deal. More video