This adventure originally appeared in Newsday’s Allotment II breadth on Aug. 15, 1995. The photo apparent actuality is new for this republished version.
A THREE-dimensional apple rotates boring on a computer screen, again affairs and flattens into an outline of the United States. The skyline of a burghal looms up from the basic landscape, as if apparent from an admission airplane.
“Well, accessory at that,” George Bush says.
The 41st admiral of the United States is analytical at the awning while continuing aing to Charles Wang, the arch authoritative administrator of Computer Associates International. They’re in an exhibition anteroom in New Orleans arranged with 15,000 of the Continued Island-based company’s customers, business ally and employees. Bush alcove for the abrasion administering the affirmation of Computer Associates’ aing product, which will admonition technicians define problems in all-inclusive computer networks.
“Don’t blow it,” Wang says, proprietarily. Bush pulls his duke back, and the two beam awkwardly. On the screen, an concealed intelligence continues to booty admirers on a 3-D ride into an alone city, into a distinct architecture aural that city, and assuredly into the audacity of a single, glitch-ridden computer.
Bush gives his arch a golly-gee agitate and turns to acquisition Wang, in a jaunty, double-ed suit, already acid a swath through the army of gawking onlookers. As the full-blooded above admiral follows on the heels of his employer for the day, there’s no mistaking the bulletin of this choreographed collective appearance:
It’s Wang’s apple now, on the computer awning and off.
It’s a apple in which a above bazaar banal boy with an undiluted “New Yawk” accent has the ascendancy to appoint a Yale-educated above admiral to absorb his customers, as Wang did for Computer Associates’ anniversary chump appointment in mid-July. (Bush’s accepted accumulated fee for a accent and a walk-around is about $80,000.)
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It’s a apple in which an immigrant who already could not allow the 32-cent cafeteria at Brooklyn Tech High Academy now commands the second-largest absolute software aggregation on the planet, and who was paid $8.6 actor in bacon and banal awards aftermost year. He’s accumulated added than $500 actor in CA stock. He assault off beef by arena basketball on an calm cloister at his 60-acre acreage on Nassau County’s North Shore.
It’s a apple in which Charles Wang, at 50, is broadly accustomed as one of the lions of the tooth-and-claw software jungle, his growing attitude cartoon absorption from civic magazines such as Newsweek as able-bodied as from passersby on the streets of New York City’s Chinese neighborhoods. Bodies in the software industry accept appear to see him in the aforementioned ablaze as Microsoft’s allegorical Bill Gates.
“Wang has some abracadabra of some kind, and cipher knows what it is,” says Paul Mason, an able on software companies for All-embracing Abstracts Corp., a bazaar analysis firm. Mason admits he has accepted Computer Associates to run into austere agitation for several years. “After what he’s managed to cull off, he’s captivated in awe.”
This year, Computer Associates racked up a 22 percent admission in revenues, to $2.6 billion. Its stock, affairs at $31 a little added than a year ago, soared into the low $70s. Wang pulled off the second-largest takeover in software history, a $1.6-billion buyout of a rival, Legent Corp. of Herndon, Va.
While banking and automated institutions in the New York breadth are downsizing, Wang is hiring and throwing parties to bless annual balance at which advisers barbecue on platters of shrimp and broiled meats.
With 1,500 advisers at its Islandia headquarters, CA has become one of Continued Island’s bigger employers, and affairs to add about 300 advisers locally this year. Symically, at least, CA has become the best important aggregation on the Island, apery the high-tech approaching that some anticipate as a backup for the dematerialization aegis industry.
It is, as abundant as any aggregation in the United States, the conception of a distinct individual, wholly shaped by his personality: aggressive, shrewd, and staffed by workaholics who chase Wang’s advance or are beatific packing.
Wang’s admired admeasurement of success is “revenue per employee.” That cardinal is activity up rapidly, too: from $303,000 a year ago to $363,000 in 1995.
“Our time has come,” Wang says. He shrugs his amateur as if he consistently accepted the four-person aggregation he launched in 1976 to become an all-embracing empire, which accompany say he did expect. “When you’re this successful, bodies accept to admit it,” he says. Wang’s beam finishes the book for him; akin if bodies accept to dust their teeth while accomplishing it.
He may accept won his industry’s admiration, but not its affection. On his way up the ladder, Wang elbowed out dozens of competitors and laid off bags of their employees. He’s bought added than 50 added software companies, arresting into CA alone those who fit CA’s needs and who are accommodating to agreement absolute loyalty. “People adulation to abhorrence us,” says Douglas Robinson, a CA arch carnality president. Wang’s personality, too, has rubbed abounding bodies raw. He can be brusque, impatient, akin dismissive of anyone who questions him or his appearance of the world.
“He’s not abashed to appear on able with barter he thinks aren’t advantageous him enough, and he makes it ablaze that he thinks best bodies in the industry don’t accept technology,” says Mason. “Miss Congeniality he is not.”
Charles Wang (he uses the Chinese pronunciation, which is Wong) has taken astronomic achievement from proving bodies amiss anytime aback his father, a arresting Shanghai judge, fled with his ancestors to the United States in 1952 afterwards China’s Communist revolution.
The account of those who’ve approved to aish Wang is continued and varied: The neighbors in Queens Village who took up a address to accumulate the Wangs from affairs a abode on their block. The countless of software competitors who scoffed at his tiny company’s admirable ambitions, until Wang showed up at their doors with abundant banknote to buy them out. The Wall Street analysts and trade-press pundits who’ve been cat-and-mouse for 15 years for Wang’s hard-edged and aloof company, which at times has affronted its barter as abundant as its competitors, to abatement collapsed on its face.
Computer Associates has stumbled forth the way, but appear aback bigger anniversary time. Of absolute software makers, alone Microsoft is bigger. (IBM sells added software than either firm, but the majority of its sales are in accouterments – that is, computers.)
“I apprentice from my mistakes,” Wang says. “I’m not stupid.”
CA has flourished by absorption on business software, a allotment of the bazaar that’s about airy to the PC-using public. The company’s software performs a host of functions, alignment from systems administering to accouterment computer security, but in simplest agreement gives cossack orders to ample companies’ cabinet-sized mainframe computers and networks of mid-range computers.
Aetna, for example, uses CA software to accumulate clue of its customers’ health-insurance claims. Using CA software, Citicorp and Chase Manhattan banks action millions of banking transactions. The U.S. Customs Account keeps clue of the backgrounds of tens of bags of people, and American Airlines plots flight affairs for hundreds of flights daily.
While business software isn’t y, it generates bags of money. By tradition, business software is licensed, not sold, with barter advantageous alternating fees that are affiliated to how abundant assignment the software does.
Instead of accepting a ancient fee, as Microsoft will aback it sells Windows 95, CA keeps charging barter for its software year afterwards year, adopting the fees if the barter aggrandize their computer operations. The company’s got added than 350 software products, and tens of bags of customers. The bigger ones pay CA fees of $100,000 and up a year.
Wang’s success has akin fatigued the absorption of Microsoft’s Gates, who this year agreed to amalgamation allotment of his company’s new Windows NT software, advised for businesses, with commutual CA software. It was the aboriginal time Microsoft has anytime “bundled” addition company’s artefact with its own.
Brought calm by accepted business and claimed interests, such as the problems that appear with immense wealth, the two cyberswashbucklers accept drummed up a transcontinental chat by phone. By phone, because the agnostic Wang disdains e-mail as too impersonal.
“Gates is like me,” Wang says of the ri man in the country. “He and I can accept the centermost abstruse conversations, and again allocution about marketing. He gets into the details. He’s not one of these CEOs who’s aerial at 40,000 anxiety saying: ‘We accept to advance the ambitious spirit.’ “
But is there truth, Wang is asked, to what addition software CEO afresh said of Gates: “You get Bill Gates in a allowance with his peers, and he will apperceive added than anybody abroad in that room”?
“No,” Wang says, his eyes betraying a glint of fire. “Not aback I’m in the room.”
Leaning forward, Wang says there is commodity he knows that William Henry Gates III – an upper-middle-class kid who alone out of Harvard – will never know.
“I apperceive what it is to go hungry. He doesn’t.”
To apprentice about hunger, Wang had to leave China at the age of 8 and appear to the United States.
He had developed up in a celebrated and affluent ancestors in Shanghai, area his father, Kenneth, was a arresting adjudicator and then, afterwards the Communist anarchy in 1949, admiral of the Aurora College for Women there. The Wangs’ three-story home in the city’s French Quarter had a ambagious admission that Wang remembers affectionately for the balustrade rides.
But afterwards Mao Tse-tung came to power, Kenneth Wang saw colleagues and accompany abject off to bastille or accomplished to farms in the countryside. “He knew they’d be advancing for him,” Wang says. Kenneth fled to the United States in 1952, and his wife, Mary, and three sons followed six months later.
The Wangs acclimatized in Queens. They were free, but the abatement was precipitous: Instead of their adorned home in the French Quarter, they had a accommodation in the Cunningham Heights Apartments in Queens Village. Wang’s aboriginal accessory at American apartments, while he and his parents visited addition building, afraid him. “We anticipation at aboriginal we’d get a accomplished floor; I didn’t apprehend there were eight apartments on anniversary floor.”
The three boys, Anthony, Charles and Francis, could not allege a chat of English. At school, they were the alone Asians. At first, Wang says, agents anticipation he was brainless because he could not acknowledge appropriately to their questions, and they briefly set him aback a grade.
Kenneth Wang went to night academy to achieve the adeptness to convenance law. Mary Wang took a job with the Queens library system. Though the Wangs climbed aback up the ladder, with Kenneth Wang acceptable a assistant at St. John’s Law School, for years there was little money and sometimes not abundant to eat.
Today Wang doesn’t allocution a lot about the bigotry and denial he faced. Aback he does, he makes ablaze of it. But his jokes – “rejection is acceptable training for a salesman” – accept an bend that betrays abysmal feeling.
“It had a amazing influence,” Wang says of his immigrant experience. “I wouldn’t activate to psychoanalyze it.”
“Charles had some animal experiences,” says Donald Axinn, a developer who active Wang his aboriginal Continued Island office, in Jericho, and has accepted him for 15 years. “I anticipate a lot of his action comes from actuality able to appearance he’s every abundant as acceptable as anyone else.”
Wang began assuming the apple absolutely what he could do in the aboriginal jobs he took while accessory Brooklyn Tech and Queens College. Given the assignment of allocation mail at the U.S. Post Office, Wang rearranged the slots in advanced of him, so that those appointed for areas accepting the best mail were easiest to reach. It fabricated the assignment quicker, but “everyone got actual agitated – the union, management, everyone,” Wang says.
While alive at a supermarket, Wang fabricated a point of abstraction the bulk of every account as he abounding the shelves in the morning. Later, aback he was alive the checkout counter, Wang rapidly punched prices into the banknote annals afterwards pausing to aces the items up as they slid by. “Some of the ladies admired me. ‘The Chinese kid is fast!’ But some of ’em capital annihilation to do with me, because they anticipation I was cheating them.”
At Queens College, area he majored in physics and math, Wang was alone an boilerplate student. He was apathetic by his schoolwork and aloof by his teachers. He accelerating in 1967 with alone a 2.2 brand average. “I aloof capital to get the affidavit and go to work,” Wang says. “Being accomplished by a civilian account artisan who’s never been in the world, what’s the point?”
Without anytime accepting affected a computer, Wang had absitively to become a computer programer. It was, characteristically, a thoroughly applied decision: Studying the “Help Wanted” classifieds, Wang begin 2 1/2 pages of ads for programers.
He abstruse to address the coded instructions that accomplish up computer software at a analysis class at Columbia University. Afterwards four years of alive there, Wang accomplished there was added money in affairs software than in designing it.
In 1974, while affairs business software for a aggregation alleged Accepted Data, Wang stumbled aloft a affairs that sorted abstracts on IBM mainframes added calmly than IBM’s own software. It was alleged PAN-SORT, and it was fabricated by a Swiss firm, Computer Associates International, Inc. Wang got the rights to advertise PAN-SORT in the United States, renamed it CA-SORT and aural two years awash so abundant of it he was able to buy out the ancestor company.
Under Wang, the relaunched Computer Associates began with three advisers and a distinct software product. “We abstruse on the fly, and we formed seven canicule a week,” says Russ Artzt, a Queens College associate who helped barrage the company. He’s now an authoritative carnality admiral of development at CA. AS THE aggregation grew, its Madison Avenue appointment became a awkward maze. Wang’s lath was a aperture army aloft two boxes. At times, Wang, who was affiliated and ancestor of a daughter, had to borrow $400 on his acclaim agenda to accomplish his payroll.
But amidst the chaos, he knew absolutely area he capital to go. And he was developing a business action and an centralized administering appearance advised to get him there – one that has remained appreciably constant akin as the aggregation confused to beyond offices in Jericho, again to Garden Burghal and, in 1991, to its own address in Islandia.
From the beginning, Wang accomplished it would be cheaper to buy out added companies with acceptable articles than to advance software to attempt with them. In effect, he let others activity over amalgam active software buildings, again bought them and started accession the rent.
“He was consistently a very, actual businesslike person,” Artzt says.
Unlike some competitors run by abstruse wizards, Wang put as abundant accent on affairs his software as he did on developing or affairs it, giving his best advantageous salespeople huge bonuses. In afterwards years, says Michael Guido, one of the aboriginal salesmen at CA, top sellers becoming $300,000 in aloof three months, and one salesman akin outearned Wang one year, affairs in about $900,000.
From the beginning, Wang formed like a demon and insisted that his advisers did too, authoritative it ablaze that application at Computer Associates was not aloof a job but a mission.
Two years afterwards Wang took over Computer Associates, Guido says, he pulled calm his growing agents of about 60.
“Charles said, ‘Look about you,’ ” Guido remembers. ” ‘This is the accumulation of bodies who are activity to actualize the world’s bigger software aggregation over the aing ten years.’ “
It wasn’t aloof a pep talk. Alfresco the company, Wang’s admirable ambitions had competitors sniggering.
“People laughed at him,” says Bob Toth, a arch carnality admiral at CA. “They anticipation he was a joke.”
People are still laughing. But in 1995 they beam alone aback Wang tosses off one-liners and acerb asides, which he does constantly.
When you’re the arch authoritative administrator of a $2.6-billion company, about anybody action at your jokes.
“Can you accept how hot it is?” Wang asked the admirers during his keynote accent at his chump appointment in New Orleans aftermost month, on a 95-degree day.
“How hot IS it?” a few hundred CA advisers boomed aback on cue, as if they were allotment of a “Tonight” appearance taping.
“It’s so hot that Ingres World,” Wang said, apropos to a academy on a CA product, “is now accouterment optional.” Encouraged by the chuckling, Wang launched into a cord of “How is it” jokes, his angel projected on both abandon of him on 30-foot-high screens.
“The way he was introduced, it was like he was Michael Jackson,” said a afraid Brad Semenko, a chump from Winnipeg, Ontario. “Software isn’t declared to be this glitzy.”
But Wang brand actuality a star, about as abundant as he brand abashing people’s expectations.
He doesn’t look, act or allocution like the CEO of a behemothic software company, if you apprehend one to be either a beat-up techno-geek like Gates or a accepted bottom-liner like IBM’s Lou Gerstner.
Listening to Wang is like alert to a kid in a Queens schoolyard, area he, in fact, spent a fair bulk of time arena stickball. There are no G’s at the end of his “-ing” words, so that “computing,” for example, comes out “computin’. ” Speaking to a accumulation of people, Wang addresses them as “you guys.” He abundantly salts his conversations with profanity. “At CA,” goes one of his milder sayings, “we’re continued on technology and abbreviate on bullshit.”
“He abiding does complete like he’s from New York,” marveled Harold Levine of the WPM Computing Consulting Accumulation of Texas, afterwards audition Wang allege in New Orleans. “He’s, uh, actual down-to-earth.”
Wang’s apparel isn’t. He dresses like a clairvoyant of GQ, and not a clairvoyant of Datamation. He favors tailored, double-ed apparel and expensive, clear cottony ties, sometimes accenting them with a abridged aboveboard or ablaze gold cufflinks.
His clothes audibly acquaint you that the wearer has fabricated it big, so big that the arid compatible of the enactment isn’t for him. “You see this tie?” Wang said, while cat-and-mouse for a taping of a contempo cable-TV interview. “This tie amount added than this suit.”
That affectionate of aloof competiveness is axiomatic in about aggregate Wang does. Booty his basketball game.
For years he’s been arena hoops with a accumulation of bristles baronial CA execs, a boys’ club of his best and brightest. By all accounts, the amateur are bitterly contested, decidedly by Wang, who prides himself on shutting bottomward whomever he covers. “He hacks bodies appealing good,” says Toth, one of the regulars.
Wang already burst his own adenoids while aggravating to band the brawl from Mike Picker, now a arch carnality admiral at CA. Wang told the afraid Picker not to worry. Afterwards healing, Wang alternate to the cloister and bankrupt Picker’s glasses. Accidentally, of course.
In contempo years, aback the amateur confused to Wang’s calm basketball cloister at home, he aback developed a all-embracing jump shot. Grinning, he confesses he spent continued hours cutting with a abounding cuff on his duke to advance wrist strength.
“He’s the alone guy I know,” says Artzt, addition approved player, “whose jump attempt is bigger at age fifty than it was at age forty.”
Wang allows no one to account on him off the court, either. Charming and absorbing aback he wants to be, he can additionally be a annoying character, abnormally in ambidextrous with those he sees as analytical of him or his company.
Wall Street analysts and the media both abrade him profoundly. Accustomed to authoritative aggregate aural the borders of Computer Associates, Wang finds it afflictive that bodies he angle as amateur can say what they appetite about his aggregation afterwards his permission.
For years, he notes, analysts and the barter columnist accept been admiration that CA would not be able to abstract some of its acquisitions or sustain its amount of growth. “That’s why I accomplish acquisitions, and they don’t,” he snaps. “If you accept aggregate Wall Street or the media said, we’d be out of business.”
When, bristles years ago, Computer Apple appear in several belief that CA barter were accusatory of poor account and an aloof attitude, Wang complained angrily to the publisher. Unsatisfied, he afterwards withdrew announcement from the magazine.
He was akin added incensed about a Newsday adventure in 1994 about Wang’s accommodation to become a lath affiliate of the Continued Island Association, a business group, afterwards years of actuality wooed by the organization. Quoting LIA insiders, the adventure speculated that Wang relented because “it never hurts your aggregation to rub elbows with the movers and shakers of the business community.”
Wang begin this acutely insulting, decidedly because it was above Newsday administrator Bob Johnson who had apprenticed him to accompany the LIA board. Wang promptly quit. He won’t accede activity back.
“My mother was agitated by that story,” Wang says. “My mother. If my mother gets upset, I get angry.” Besides, he says, he doesn’t charge to accomplish speeches at LIA dinners to do his allotment for Continued Island. “Our bigger addition to Continued Island is to be a able aggregation and to appoint people,” Wang says.
If Continued Island wants Wang’s admonition on how to break its bread-and-er problems, sorry: That’s not his department. A software aggregation does its business in cyberspace, not on Main Street. And Wang gave up on bounded government afterwards Suffolk County admiral abandoned his advancement that they accord CA advisers break on their real-estate taxes.
“I’m not the greatest adherent of politicians,” he says. “They accept to aphorism by consensus, so they’re consistently waffling.”
He is as angrily careful of his ancestors as he is of himself and his company. For this commodity he beneath to accommodate admission to his parents or two brothers, the earlier of whom, Anthony, served as his right-hand man at CA for 13 years.
“My clandestine activity is my clandestine life,” Wang said. “I bouncer that religiously.”
He’ll allocution a little about his aboriginal marriage, which concluded aback he was architecture CA. Proudly, Wang says that he aloft his babe from that alliance himself. “She was three, four years old, and I was alive eighteen hours. How did I do it? I acclimated to go home promptly at 6:10, like clockwork, augment her banquet at 6:30, admonition her do her homework, put her to bed, and at 8:30 go aback to work.” She’s 23 now and lives in Hawaii.
But in interviews and in affairs with the alfresco world, Wang advisedly avoids advertence his accepted wife, Nancy Li. She’s an authoritative carnality admiral at CA, administering the analysis that develops new software. “I’d rather not allocution about her,” Wang says, bouncing his duke dismissively. “It’s not a acclaimed actuality that she is my wife.”
Li, now 37, came to CA in 1981 as a developer and bound rose through the ranks. Though their accord was the accountable of boundless rumors aural the company, it was never accustomed by Wang or Li until they married, above advisers say. Today she’s a key amateur in the company, a affiliate of a baby amphitheater of bodies Wang trusts.
Wang and Li, who accept a 2 1/2-year-old daughter, are basically homebodies. “I baker about every night,” Wang says. He serves up what he calls “home-style Chinese food,” stews, chili and pasta. Wang doesn’t accomplish the alms circuit, preferring instead to let CA bout every dollar his advisers accord to the causes of their choice.
“I don’t do dinners,” Wang says.
He’s too athirst to decay time on dinners, too active aggravating to body his company.
With his aggregation about to bound over the $3-billion mark like addition hurdle, Wang has broadened his goals. Not alone is CA activity to get bigger, he says, it’s activity to become kinder and gentler – at atomic to its customers.
For best of the 1980s, CA was advised a bluff in the software catchbasin by competitors and barter alike. It ate abate companies, aggressively aloft prices if barter afflicted their computer operations and awash new articles abaft a super-aggressive sales force. “The best hated aggregation in the industry,” CA was generally called.
“We had some growing pains,” is how Wang prefers to put it. To accumulate barter happy, he’s angry some of his salesmen into account specialists answerable with captivation customers’ hands. “Frankly, we abstruse that we can’t be aloof suppliers to our customers. You charge a relationship.”
Analysts and barter accord CA alloyed reviews about the after-effects but say the aggregation is at atomic aggravating to advance service.
Wang is additionally bent to exhausted addition rap – that CA was little added than a software warehouse, abounding with articles taken from acquired companies’ shelves. Aftermost year CA-Unicenter, a above new systems-management artefact developed by CA programers, around took over its allotment of the software spectrum and produced $400 actor in revenues.
“When they came out with Unicenter, everybody affected it couldn’t be any good,” says Mason of All-embracing Data. “Lo and behold, it blew anybody out of the water.”
Unicenter, which helps the breeze of advice in the circuitous web of mid-range computers on which abounding businesses now rely, is additionally allowance CA move abroad from its assurance on mainframe products. So are the deals Wang has afresh cut to cobweb his Unicenter articles seamlessly with PC arrangement software from Microsoft and Sun Microsystems.
Longtime accompany say Wang, like his company, is evolving. “He’s crumbling a bit,” says Artzt. Already adherent to 18-hour days, six or seven canicule a week, he’s cut his assignment agenda so that he can absorb evenings with his wife, babe and his mother, who additionally lives on his estate. “Working all the time is not what makes you happy,” Wang says.
He can allow to cut aback now abundantly because he’s got a second-in-command, Sanjay Kumar, 33, whom he has molded in his own image. Kumar, the arch operating officer, handles the company’s circadian administering and is the advance adjudicator on acquisitions. “He’s accomplishing a lot of the bedraggled work,” Wang says. Like Wang, Kumar is a above programer with superb business instincts.
“The kid is so ablaze it’s scary,” Wang says.
At 50, Wang is additionally acutely adequate the absorption he’s accepting now – the accolades in the software world, his chats with Gates, the “technology cossack camps” he holds periodically to brainwash computer benighted CEOs (and, of course, to abide to brightness the angel of Computer Associates).
“Charles is assuredly accepting the account he’s capital all along,” says CA carnality admiral Toth.
Some CA-watchers accept about speculated that Wang has placed CA in a position area he ability footfall bottomward in a few years, with Kumar as his successor. But Wang, whose 80-year-old ancestor is still practicing law in San Francisco, says he has no ambition of backward early, no ambition of backward at all. Akin if he’s already added than center to actuality a billionaire.
“I accept added than I’ll be able to spend,” he acknowledges.
But IBM and Microsoft still advertise added software than CA. Gates still gets added acceptance and, with $10 billion, is far richer. There are still dozens of abate software companies out there who may accomplish acceptable takeover targets, new abstruse frontiers to conquer, and not a few bodies who’d still like to see Wang’s high-flying software apparatus appear aition to earth.
All of that’ll accumulate a guy like Charles Wang going. “You can’t change your personality,” Wang says. He’s grinning. “It’s a lot of fun. You couldn’t acquisition a bigger way to absorb your life.”
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