veryone has heard of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Not many have heard of
Charles Wang, the loud, hard-charging founder of Computer Associates whose $3.5
billion annual sales puts it just behind Microsoft and Oracle as the world's third biggest
independent software company.
In trying to interview Wang for this profile I came to understand one reason
for his relative obscurity outside computer circles- he refuses to let his
position compromise his privacy. To the extent that Wang does allow access,
it is strictly on his own terms.
A call to his office was deflected to CA's PR Director Chris Maynard. In trying
to set up a half-day interview with a busy CEO, I am not put off at being put
through the proper channels. I was willing to travel to CA's headquartres in
Garden City, New York and was prepared to wait two or three weeks, if
necesary, for a firm appointment.
Maynard, a pleasant enough fellow, is neither encouraging nor discouraging.
He starts by correcting my pronunciation of Wang's name (like "Wong"). He
promises to call back after checking with Wang. Not having heard from
Maynard two weeks later, I call. He tells me to be patient. Ten days later he
calls to say that, as luck would have it, in another ten days Wang will be in
Palm Springs to speak at a CIO conference. I can interview him then and
save myself a trip East. Whithout a clue as to what a CIO conference is , I
flash on Wang standing at a lectern before an audience of 300 grey suited
executives, delivering a talk on the future of business software, say, or the
role of computers in the 21st century. Then I flash on me trying to know
where Wang will be staying corner him in a crowded noisy lecture hall.
Maynard assures me that I will be granted a one-on-one with Wang in a
Several calls later it is decided that the interview will take place during a
free morning Wang has between speaking engagments. As for the exact time
and place, I am to stand by. A few days before the interview Maynard tells
me that the CIO conference will be at the Hyatt Grand Champion in Indian
Wells, near Palm Springs, but that he deosn't yet know where Wang will be
staying. A few days later he tells me that he thinks the interview will start
first thing in the mornig but that I won't be able to find out when and where
until the morning of the interview.
This is a problem because Palm Springs is
a three-and-a-half-hour drive. Maynard suggests that I get there the night
before and call first thing in the morning. Whom should I call for the time
and place? "I'll call you as soon as I know," Maynard says, trying to sound
The day before the interview, a few hours before I am to begin my drive to
Palm Springs, Maynard calls to tell me to call the Grand Champion early the
next morning and ask for a Harry Roberts. Roberts will have details of the
interview. Who is Roberts? Maynard claims not to know. He also
doesn'tknow where Wang will be staying, he says. Sensing my uneasiness,
Maynard lets on that Wang doesn't like his whereabouts revealed in advance.
Why all the mystery unless there is a dark side to Wang's personallife? My
imagination shifts into gear. Is Roberts Wang's personal secretary?
The next morning I ring Harry Roberts from my Palm Springs hotel room.
The phone is answered by a deep-voiced woman. Robert's wife? Wang's
wife? A hooker? Had there been a menage-a-trois the night before?
My request to speak with Harry Roberts is greeted by a long , puzzled silence.
Then as though recalling her lines, the woman asks my name and number.
Mr. Roberts will call as soon as he is free. Maynard had mentioned that Wang
would only be available until the late morning. It is nearly eight already and
it would take at least a half hour to get to Indian Wells. The last thing I need is having to wait by the phone for Roberts to get out of bed or saunter back from a power breakfast. I decide instead to go ahead to Indian Wells and call again from the lobby.