SCO's Slow Death Spiral

You know those movies? The ones where the ultimate, bloody ending is played through painful slow-mo? Will the protagonists get their bullets? Of course. It's just a matter of waiting. In the meantime, try not to wince too much at the graphic carnage.

Think of that the next time you think of the SCO Group (Nasdaq: SCOX  ) . Today, SCO was forced to announce that it may find its stock delisted from the Naz on account of a late 10-K. How the mighty have fallen. From an early Linux advocate to open-source pariah, SCO Group, under the leadership of bellicose CEO Darl McBride, has turned into nothing but a lawsuit and a prayer.

The Unix biz that was a foundation and might have provided some life support is simply withering away to nothing. Its universally reviled efforts to strong-arm Linux licensing fees out of the rest of the world? It turns out shaking your fist at the code fiends behind the world's biggest cooperative software project makes a lot more enemies than it does money. The latest numbers were awful. Revenues at half of the prior-year quarter's. Losses tripled. Yet McBride had the audacity to claim that "Fourth Quarter achievements demonstrate continued progress at SCO."

If these are achievements, I'd hate to see what he considers a challenge. But why should he worry? In 2003, he got over $1 million for this kind of leadership, including a $750,000 bonus, plus 78,000 restricted shares of stock and 200,000 options. (Someone, please tell me where I can sign up for a job like that.) Sure, the stock and options might end up worth zilch. But the view from a million must be pretty sweet. Like what Nero saw while toasting marshmallows over the flaming Forum.

Because of some fancy deals with legal teams, SCO's pricey lawsuits against flush giants like AutoZone (NYSE: AZO  ) , DaimlerChrysler (NYSE: DCX  ) , and IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) aren't likely to sink the company too quickly. But they haven't panned out. Earlier this month, the federal judge in the IBM suit had some scathing remarks for SCO, indicating impatience with the firm's refusal to provide evidence, as well as puzzlement over its shifting claims. CNET Networks' (Nasdaq: CNET  ) news has an interesting summary of that situation here.

And as for going back to basics and making money from something like selling a computer service? Well, SCO's financial backers have pretty much cracked the whip. It's lawsuit or nothing. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts it comes up nothing.

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Seth Jayson has an unhealthy fascination with highly paid ineptitude. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any firm mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.

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