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Firewall firm saw many takers

Trusted Information Systems had its choice of suitors, but Network Associates is the one that beat the pack for the security company.

Andrew "Flip" Filipowski bought eight companies in 1997 as chief executive of Platinum Technology (PLAT), but he may remember February 1998 for the one that got away.

That one was Trusted Information Systems (TISX), a security firewall company that Platinum had a deal to buy, only to have it slip away over a weekend to acquisitive Network Associates (NETA), according to individuals familiar with the negotiations.

The next day, Filipowsky consoled himself by signing a deal to buy Hewlett-Packard's family of data warehousing software, called Intelligent Warehouse.

Officially, TIS, Network Associates, and Platinum declined to comment on the negotiations that resulted in the February 23 announcement that Network Associates would buy TIS for about $300 million in stock.

But three days after the acquisition was announced, Network Associates chief executive William Larson told a press briefing how TIS chief executive Steve Walker had called on February 20 to say TIS had a buyer. Larson asked him not to sign, then dispatched a team to best the other offer. By Sunday night, they had a deal.

Both Larson and Walker declined to name the other bidder, but three individuals familiar with the negotiations identified Platinum as the rival.

"There were a number of high-profile technology companies that were interested in buying TIS," TIS spokeswoman Stacey Fairbairn said. "At this time, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on anyone's name specifically. We cannot confirm the rumor."

Platinum technology spokesman Ron Freehl had similar comments: "At this time, we're not at liberty to confirm or deny any involvement with the negotiations for the acquisition of Trusted Information Systems."

Network Associates declined to elaborate on Larson's earlier public comments.

Both Network Associates and Platinum prized TIS for its security expertise and software, which both are building into their product lines, mostly by acquisition. Network Associates has done nine acquisitions in the last four years, compared to Platinum's 39 since mid-1994.

Network Associates has added Internet security to its core antivirus software from its days as McAfee and network management products from last year's acquisition of Network General. Network Associates also acquired encryption software firm Pretty Good Privacy last year.

Platinum, which describes its business as IT infrastructure management, is building out a full line of products including systems management, database management, data warehousing, and application development tools.

Platinum's security offerings, called its AutoSecure line, include a single sign-on product and a Unix access control offering called ACX.