Riding the Runaway Horse: The Rise and Decline of Wang Laboratories

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9780316489195: Riding the Runaway Horse: The Rise and Decline of Wang Laboratories

When ambitious young Chinese immigrant An Wang founded Wang Laboratories in 1951, the company operated out of a single room, had two employees, and made $15,000 its first year. By the 1970s, however, it had become a sprawling empire with revenues of $2.5 billion. But hard times were ahead for this computer giant. . . . 16 pages of photographs.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

The cautionary tale of a world-class high-tech enterprise that hit the skids faster than it reached the heights. Drawing on interviews with key principals, disclosure documents, and allied sources, Boston Globe correspondent Kenney recounts what, save for hubris, could have been a classic American success story. His protagonist is the late An Wang, an inventive genius who left China for the US after WW II. After earning a Ph.D. from Harvard and working on several of the university's pioneering computer projects, Wang went into business for himself in 1951, at age 29. Profitable from the outset, Wang Laboratories rode the crest of the electronic calculator boom and transformed itself into a leading supplier of minicomputers during the early 1970's. The subsequent addition of user-friendly word-processing systems to its product lines helped make the company a multinational colossus with annual revenues topping $3 billion--and a Wall Street favorite. Notwithstanding more than a decade of spectacular growth, however, Wang Labs proved vulnerable on several counts. Its high command, for example, failed to appreciate the potential of personal computers, losing this lucrative market to archrival IBM, which went on to set the industry's standards. As Kenney makes clear, moreover, the vaulting dynastic ambitions of the firm's patriarchal founder (described by one close associate as ``a humble egomaniac'') led to operational and morale problems. Indeed, the reversal in the company's fortunes was so pronounced that by 1989 Wang (who died a year later) felt obliged to fire his son Fred from the presidency (for which, by all accounts, he was unqualified) and bring in a professional management team. Back from the brink of bankruptcy, Wang Labs, Kenney says, will survive as a going concern, albeit in neither the generation-spanning nor cutting-edge form envisioned by its creator. A corporate history bearing vivid witness to the warning that pride goeth before a fall. (Twenty-two photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Chinese immigrant An Wang, a Harvard Ph.D. and computer pioneer, turned a Boston storefront operation into one of the legendary success stories in the computer industry. But by 1985 the glory years at Wang Laboratories had given way to a downward spiral of massive debt, layoffs and late product deliveries. To Boston Globe journalist Kenney, Wang's trajectory resembles a classic tragedy, rooted in a fatal flaw of its secretive, visionary leader--his obsessive desire for control and his placing of family interests ahead of those of shareholders. Wang's biggest mistake, asserts Kenney, was making his son Fred director of R&D, then president. An Wang fired his son in 1989, a year before his own death from cancer. This gripping, remarkably intimate saga discloses behind-the-scenes wrangling from the joyride years through the 1991 deal with IBM whereby Wang sells IBM products globally. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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