One of the pillars of Internet communications is the ubiquitous WinZip. While the .zip format that it uses is in the public domain (and originally the creation of Phil Katz), WinZip unarguably makes the most popular Windows client-side .zip implementation: It is tough to go very far without running into a document or a program where WinZip is useful.
So here is what is puzzling me: What’s happening with the company? As I understand it, WinZip was originally the brainchild of Niko Mak and his Niko Mak Computing. These days it is sold by WinZip Computing, which I had assumed was the same company — but perhaps not. Consider the following story which ran on Dow Jones almost two weeks ago (and that I have been puzzling over ever since):
Technology Investment Invests $15M In WinZip Sr Notes
DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
January 18, 2005 11:56 a.m.
WASHINGTON — Technology Investment Capital Corp. (TICC) disclosed Tuesday that it completed a $15 million investment in a senior secured note issued by WinZip Computing Inc.
The business development company said in a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that its investment is in support of Vector Capital’s acquisition of WinZip Computing.
Vector Capital is a San Francisco-based venture capital firm.
WinZip Computing is a Windows utility software company specializing in file compression software.
By my read of this story, WinZip Computing is now owned by Vector Capital, a San Francisco-based venture & private equity firm best known for its 2003 buyout of graphics software maker Corel Corporation. Apparently, as part of a quiet WinZip buyout TICC bought a piece of debt issued by WinZip to help finance the transaction. It would seem there must have been an element of leveraged buyout here, with WinZip’s cashflow supporting the purchase by Vector.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, what is going on? Because there is nothing on the WinZip homepage mentioning a change of control; I can also find nothing on Vector Capital’s site, nor on TICC’s site. The only mention I can find from TICC is in a somewhat obscure January 18th filing, which, curiously, omits any mention of Vector Capital’s role in the WinZip buyout — at least as described by the DJ reporter (who hasn’t responded to curious emails from me). I can’t find another story mentioning the deal anywhere on any wire.
Now, I have nothing against a little stealth, but when one of the more important pieces of utility technology used on the Internet changes hands, you would think there would be more chatter.