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Michael Cowpland (born April 23, 1943) is a British-born entrepreneur, businessman, and the founder and one-time president, chairman and CEO of Corel, a Canadian software company.
He worked for Bell Northern Research (later part of Nortel Networks) and then MicroSystems International. In 1973, Cowpland and Terry Matthews founded Mitel Networks, a company that developed and sold electronic PBX systems. Initial success made both founders millionaires. Sales peaked at $250 million, but over-expansion and development problems saw the company bought by British Telecom. Both Cowpland and Matthews left the company in 1984 amid disagreements with the owners.
Matthews went on to found Newbridge Networks while Cowpland launched Cowpland Research Laboratory (soon Corel) in Ottawa in 1985. At first, the company sold DTP workstations, but success did not arrive until the launch of the graphics software CorelDRAW in 1989.
In 1996, he offered a challenge to Microsoft with a move into productivity software, acquiring WordPerfect from Novell for $158 million. However this was unsuccessful as many Microsoft managed to get many new computers loaded with Microsoft Word along with Windows. The company also made unsuccessful forays into CAD, videoconferencing, Java, Linux and other developments.
He was investigated by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) in 1999-2000 into allegations that he had used insider information to sell $20 million in Corel shares at $8/share shortly before the company posted disappointing results. The two sides settled the case in 2003, with Cowpland agreeing to pay $575,000. Subsequent to Cowpland's alleged insider sale at $8, Corel shares hit a peak of $60/share around November 1999, during the height of the Linux boom when Corel's version of Desktop Linux was seen to be a potential rival to Microsoft Windows.
After an unsuccessful attempt to buy Borland with a view to creating a critical mass for Linux, Cowpland left Corel in August 2000, and moved on to buy control of ZIM corporation, a database and mobile content company which is listed on the NASDAQ bulletin board (ZIMCF).
He was married to his first wife Darlene until 1991 when they divorced, and they had two daughters Paula and Christine. In 1992, he married his second wife, Marlen Cowpland. Marlen stretched "languorously on the top of Cowpland’s white Lamborghini Diablo" in their wedding photos, and she possed for the couple’s Christmas cards in a red spandex Santa suit. The couple’s $14-million 1,800-square-metre house in Rockcliffe Park has an exterior with Roman columns and arches, and glittering, gold-tinted glass, which "drew thousands of curious onlookers and provoked outrage among the neighborhood’s blue-blooded denizens".
- Ross Laver (1998). Random Excess: The Wild Ride of Michael Cowpland and Corel. Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-87972-X. Retrieved November 19, 2009.