CA Technologies Co-Founder Charles Wang Dies At 74


Charles Wang, a Chinese immigrant who co-founded CA Technologies and built it into one of the largest software companies in the world, has passed away from lung cancer at the age of 74.

Wang spoke no English when he arrived from Shanghai as an eight-year-old boy and settled in Queens with his family. His father, a Supreme Court justice in China, was fleeing a communist takeover, and encouraged his three sons to pursue math and science careers in America, according to a CRN Top 25 profile in 1997.

Wang graduated with a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and physics from Queens College where he met classmate Russell Artzt. The duo teamed up up to found CA Technologies in 1976.

With a fiery, competitive drive and New York street smarts, Wang built CA Technologies into a mainframe software powerhouse with an ever expanding software portfolio that was fueled by some 200 acquisitions over the years. At its peak, CA Technologies - which has been renamed CA - was the second-largest software company in the world behind Microsoft.

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“I look at the heart,” Wang once told CRN in an interview, speaking about his knack for bringing top talent to CA Technologies. “I want guys who have it. Everything else you can teach.”

Wang was renowned as a deal maker extraordinaire, pushing to get deals done at a frenetic pace. Among the companies CA acquired was Cheyenne Software for $1.2 billion in 1996 -- then considered the largest software acquisition ever. CA followed that up three years later with the acquisition of Platinum Technology for $3.5 billion – again the largest software acquisition ever at the time.

In building CA into a $6 billion powerhouse with 40,000 employees at its peak, Wang became a business icon on Long Island, giving millions of dollar to charities including $25 million to the State University of New York at Stony Brook to establish an Asian Cultural Center.

In 2000, Wang purchased the New York Islanders and used the same drive that he brought to CA to keep the Islanders on Long Island.

Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, No.115 on the CRN SP 500, said Wang was the epitome of the American dream.

"Charles came to this country with nothing and built one of the most powerful software companies in the world for its time," said Venero. "He was a master deal maker. He built a mega-software empire from the ground up. He was one of those self-made billionaires who never forgot where he came from and the people that helped him along the way."

Venero, a Long Island native and 22-year industry veteran, recalled teaming up with Wang on a partnership to develop Future Suite- a next generation of luxury boxes for sports arenas at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

When the NHL lock-out of 2004 resulted in the cancellation of the season and put the Future Suite partnership under pressure, Venero says Wang agreed to cancel the deal.

"That contract was putting a big financial burden on us, hurting our growth as a company and I told Charles about it," he said. "I'll never forget this- Charles said to me- 'Don't worry about it Bob. We'll cancel the contract. You are off the hook. That is what friends do.'" That deal that did not come to fruition was the start of an even deeper friendship between the two.

Venero recalls Wang asking for a ride in a new Hummer that Venero had recently purchased. "We went for a ride and went off road and he loved it," said Venero. "He was one of the most down-to-earth billionaires that I have had the pleasure of working with."

One of the business lessons that Venero learned from Wang is to always focus on the after sale. "Charles understood that the company you sold product to needed you to be there not just for the initial sale but for the life of the product," said Venero. "He understood the stickiness of the solutions relationship."

Venero said that the relationships like the one he had with Wang was what made it such a joy to be part of the IT industry. "These are the kind of memories that make such a big impact on you," he said. "I can't help but smile when I think what it was like to work with an individual like Charles while he was on this earth."