The impact on traditional media of almost-free web publishing and greater web-user participation has been a lively topic of discussion. But what about their impact on corporate governance? J. Thomas Stowell has launched VAProfitability.com, a site -- and a blog -- dedicated to pressuring the management of VA Linux (LNUX) to realize greater returns for shareholders.
VA Linux is an interesting company, because of its role in the open source market and its ownership of Slashdot. Slashdot's valuation has been the subject of a couple of articles on Seeking Alpha.
Mr Stowell's online petition (at the time of writing it has only 25 signatories) is based on his view of the company:
Management is incredibly lax, talk abounds that the company ignores its shareholders, and we still aren't earning a profit after all these years...
The future is in doubt. Something has got to give. And I guess, if the shareholders will have us, we're it.
Individually, at least according to hearsay, us shareholders don't matter to management. Together, we literally own the company. Let's shift it into high gear and start turning a profit!
There's something that needs clarification: When I say "turn a profit," I don't mean abandon the open-source software (OSS) community. OSS is a huge part of the future of computing, and VA is a huge part of OSS. I would never advocate anything that harms or alienates the community, because what's good for OSS is good for VA.
At the same time, VA is not a charity, and needs to turn a profit to survive. A bankrupt VA does no good for shareholders or OSS. It's a balancing act, to be sure, but that's what management signed up for. If they can't handle it, maybe they should recuse themselves.
This certainly can't hurt LNUX shareholders. The interesting question is whether the negative publicity will push management to sell its media businesses to unlock value, ending the speculation about the true value of Slashdot.