It’s been almost 30 years since John McAfee developed the first commercial antivirus software. It’s been almost six years since Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) acquired McAfee Inc. for $48 a share in a deal totaling $7.7 billion. And it’s been two years since Intel scrapped the McAfee name and rebranded it Intel Security.
Now, despite having expressed his unqualified pleasure back in 2010 at Intel dissociating itself from the McAfee name, saying that he was “everlastingly grateful to Intel for freeing me from this terrible association with the worst software on the planet,” the colorful character is now going back head first into internet security. On May 9, a small firm called MGT Capital Investments, which trades over the counter, has named McAfee its new chairman and CEO. Not only that, but he also will take back his name and brand, as the company will be renamed John McAfee Global Technologies.
The small company already has made its first move acquiring assets from D-Vasive with the aim of protecting consumers against invasive apps on their smartphones. The software is meant to protect users from apps that can turn on a phone’s microphone and camera surreptitiously while recording a user’s movement. The initiative seems fitting for McAfee, a libertarian firebrand known for his distrust of authority and suspicions of being followed.
The cybersecurity industry as a whole at present is less than scintillating, but the notorious antivirus founder may be able to shake it up yet. Market leader Symantec Corp. (NASDAQ: SYMC) for example has seen its stock quiescent for the past 13 years while its consumer security segment top line has shrunk 11% in the past three. Symantec’s consumer security business is on pace to fall even more when full 2015 earnings are reported on May 12.
As for Intel, while Intel Security is not a reportable segment on its own, we do have a general idea of how it has performed for the company since its acquisition in 2010. Last year, Intel’s Software and Services Group, which includes Intel Security, brought in $2.2 billion in revenue. This figure has not changed since 2013, and with the exception of last year due to lower expenses, has not added anything significant to Intel’s bottom line. When Intel first made the acquisition, it absorbed $1.87 billion in revenues, so clearly not much top line growth either.
Will McAfee be able to reinvigorate cybersecurity and his brand name through this D-Vasive acquisition and new CEO position? He has built an $8 billion company from scratch before and chances are he sincerely wants to rebrand his name into something he actually respects rather than a program that he suggested users uninstall by shooting their computers at point blank range with a handgun.
McAfee is now a septuagenarian and this unexpected move back into public markets may be his attempt to fix his name and legacy by doing something he and other libertarians believe in – ensuring privacy. A personality like his may be what cybersecurity needs to get back its footing toward growth, as the industry has not had much traction since McAfee left the scene. In any case, come May 29 and the Libertarian Party Convention, you may be able to vote for John in sectors both private and public.
If he’s too flamboyant though, there’s always the nice and easy Donald Trump.
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