Garnett & Helfrich in open-source deal

Menlo Park tech-buyout firm Garnett & Helfrich made its first move into the open-source space with the acquisition of Ingres Corp., the open-source unit of Computer Associates

In what could serve as further confirmation to the open-source technology model, Garnett & Helfrich Capital agreed to acquire Ingres Corp., the open-source database unit of Computer Associates International.

Ingres offers an open source database across a range of platforms, including Linux, UNIX, Windows and OpenVMS.

Terry Garnett, managing director, Garnett & Helfrich Capital

The acquisition of Ingres marks an interesting play for Garnett & Helfrich in that the Menlo Park-based firm is among first LBO groups to embrace an open-source model through a buyout. Venture groups have been targeting the open-source movement for a while, but few buyout firms have yet to make an investment in the non-proprietary side of software.

Garnett & Helfrich is hoping its role as a first mover will serve to benefit the company. “Open source software is being widely embraced by enterprise IT organisations,” Terry Garnett, a managing director at the firm, said. “By moving the Ingres product to an independent company, we can more effectively capitalise on this market momentum by attracting top industry talent, accelerating the evolution of our technology and expanding our strategic partnerships.”

Ingres was launched over the 30 years ago, and initially began as the relational database management system at the University of California, Berkeley. Computer Associates gained control of the unit as part of its 1994 acquisition of ASK Group, and last year, the company put its database into the public domain through a license that is compliant with the Open Source Initiative.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and no indication was made in the press release regarding how Garnett & Helfrich will finance the transaction. The firm raised $250 million last year for its inaugural fund, and recently added another $100 million to the vehicle.

Garnett & Helfrich’s dive into open-source technology could be the result of its venture leanings. Both Terry Garnett and David Helfrich have significant venture experience (Garnett as an ex-general partner of Venrock Associates and Helfrich as a former managing director of ComVentures), and the group actually defines itself as a “venture buyout” shop.

The Ingres acquisition marks the second deal for the firm, following up its $35 million investment in Wyse Technology in April.

Terry Garnett will serve as chairman of the new company and temporarily assume the role of CEO. The firm also announced the appointments of Oracle vet David Dargo as senior vice president of strategy and chief technology officer and Emma McGrattan as senior vice president of engineering.

Calls to the firm were not returned by press time.