HAMILTON, ONT. – You can easily make a case that Red Hat saved the Hamilton Tiger Cats from extinction. You can also make the case that Red Hat, the leader in Open Source software, saved the CFL because without the Tiger Cats it would have been very hard to sustain the league.
Red Hat’s connection to the CFL team does not necessarily begin with its owner Bob Young, the Hamilton-born co-founder of Red Hat. It actually starts with Bob’s younger brother Michael, who was a die-hard Tiger Cats fan.
Young bought the struggling team in 2003 out of bankruptcy. The main reason he did it was to honour his brother Michael who died a year earlier from melanoma. But Young had other reasons to acquire the Tiger Cats. He knew growing up in Hamilton what the team meant to the community. And, so he decided to give himself the title of Caretaker instead of President or Owner. And, he told the fans he was willing to incur losses to maintain stability for the franchise for the next generation of fans.
“The Ticats story is a cute story,” Young admits. But the team’s revival was fueled by Red Hat’s rise starting in 1994. But back in 1994 things were beyond tough for the company. They were in the midst of releasing a new version of the software and it was missing some key management tools needed to give the new version a chance at success.
Also there was no sight of any sales. “We had no money,” Young jokes now. The company was in crisis mode and Young was searching for answers. At the same time, Red Hat was open to what Young calls “Love Money Financing”. This is where family members can invest in the company. One of those family members was his brother Michael. “Michael never graduated high school and he would only see the very good in people. My Dad would always worry about Michael and he managed his investments. He too gave me money,” he said.
Then in 1998 the breakthrough came as venture capitalists got over their reluctance with Open Source and the company was also boosted by significant investments from Intel and NetScape. Red Hat investors were suddenly looking at an eight times return.
But Bob’s brother Michael did not sell, which went against is father’s wishes. Young’s father did end up cashing in his shares at that time, but Michael for some reason held on telling his older brother that he could do more with the company.
A year later the bet Michael made on his brother paid off big time. Red Hat went public and the stock rocketed up the charts. That’s when Michael sold his stake in Red Hat.
Michael would not survive melanoma cancer. His estate was left to his two brothers. The youngest brother decided to honour Michael who loved comedy by opening a club in Toronto’s entertainment district.
And, as luck would have it; when Bob found out about the comedy club the news broke that the Tiger Cats went bust. “Michael was a big Tiger Cats fan and when I got the cheque that same week I could not let my brother down and have his favourite football team pass away too. We are not in this for ourselves but for our community. That is why I bought the Tiger Cats.”