Business

The life and times of Michael Cowpland

August 28 2000
Business

The life and times of Michael Cowpland

August 28 2000

The life and times of Michael Cowpland

1943: Cowpland is born in Bexhill, England. Trained as an engineer, he immigrates to Canada in 1964.

1973: Cowpland founds telecommunications company Mitel Corp. in his Ottawa basement together with Terry Matthews, another immigrant from Britain. The two met while working at Bell Northern Research, an arm of what is now Nortel Networks.

1985: After several years of rapid growth—matched by mounting debts and management problems—Cowpland and Matthews sell a controlling interest in Mitel to British Telecom. Cowpland launches Corel Corp., which scores with the graphics program CorelDraw. By the mid1990s, Ottawa-based Corel has become the country’s largest software developer.

1995: Cowpland annoys neighbours in Ottawa’s tony Rockcliffe Park district by building a flashy, 1,800square-metre glass and marble mansion for $10 million.

1996: Corel buys the WordPerfect product line from Novell Corp. Cowpland declares he is taking on Microsoft Corp. in the office software market.

At Mitel in 1982; the infamous dress; the famous house: making a splash

1997: Wife Marlen Cowpland makes a splash by appearing at a Corel gala in a skin-tight cutaway gown with a transparent backside. She follows up two years later with a $1-million stunner featuring a 15-carat diamond on a 24karat gold breastplate.

1999: Cowpland is charged with insider trading after the Ontario Securities Commission investigates his 1997 sale of $20.4 million in Corel stock six weeks before company losses send the shares into a tailspin.

2000: With sales of its core products slipping and its reputation as a cutting-edge software developer in decline, Corel enters a February agreement to buy Scotts Valley, Calif.-based software company Inprise/Borland Corp. But in May, Inprise scuttles the deal over concerns about Corel’s mounting losses. By June, Corel is announcing steep cost-cutting measures. In August, Cowpland resigns as chairman and CEO.