The Voicemail Story Preface
San Jose, California - October, 1987 Chairman Paul Finnigan and Board Member Dennis Finnigan arrived early for a meeting at the Fairmont San Jose. They had been apprehensive about the meeting since Paul's premature return from the International Telecommunication conferenceinGeneva,Switzerland.VoicemailInternational, the company that Paul founded in 1979, was demonstrating its Voicemail service to telephone companies from around the world in an arena sponsored by Radio Suisse, the enhanced service division oftheSwisstelephone company.
During the course of seven years, VMI had raised about $1 million in private funding and venture capital and $5 million in its initial public offering, and was marginally profitable. The Company had created a virtual monopoly in the Voicemail service industry worldwide with centers now operating throughout the U.S., Europe, Scandinavia and the Pacific Rim and its trademark "Voicemail®" adopted worldwide as the term used in referencing voice services and systems. VMI was now the preferred choice for Telephone companies, Airlines, News Services, TV and Movie producers, Call Centers and other services requiring large scale voice capable platforms.
Paul Finnigan had co-founded the International Voicemail Association and was serving as its President, organizing and conducting biannual meetings attended by telecom executives representing service providers in countries worldwide. Finnigan was literally setting the coarse for industry leaders to follow in exploiting opportunities for voice technology worldwide.
In the face of all of this, the board of Directors of Voicemail International had decided to abandon the service business and create a new and smaller platform to compete in the already overcrowded enterprise marketplace. The board had also chosen to appoint a new CEO, surprisingly a candidate with no prior experience in the Voicemail industry or in the development and marketing of computer based systems, of any kind. Less than two years later, VMI had filed for Chapter 7 and closed its doors!
- - - -
The Finnigans had parked their car several blocks away and found the hotel lobby crowded with many guests coming and going in the elevators and hallways just as they had hoped. They checked the location of stairwells and exits and turned on the tape recorder in Paul's briefcase before proceeding to a room on the seventh floor where they waited for Voicemail's newly appointed CEO to arrive. They didn't have to wait long and after 20 minutes of false accusations, threats of an investigation, felony charges and verbal abuse, the meeting ended with Finnigan resigning as Chairman of Board of Voicemail International!
HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN? WHAT WAS THE BOARD THINKING? WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?