Gideon Gartner's New Trumpet

Can Gideon Gartner do it again? That's the question in computer-consulting circles. Gartner has raised more than $15 million in a private placement to fund his new firm, Giga Information Group, which plans to sell expert analysis of information-technology trends and products. It's a hot field these days, but the move puts Gartner on a collision course with the firm he co-founded in 1979: Gartner Group Inc., the business' $229 million-a-year leader.

Giga, Gartner says, will run on an "entirely new business model." He is vague on specifics but says Giga will expand through acquisitions and hints at extensive use of the Internet and Lotus Notes networks to deliver services electronically. Gartner Group has succeeded mainly by selling subscriptions to printed reports. Meta Group Inc., at $30 million in revenues its biggest rival, emphasizes phone access to its analysts.

Gideon Gartner's risks have paid off before. He left Oppenheimer & Co. as Wall Street's No.1 computer analyst to found Gartner Group. In '88, he sold it to Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide for $94 million. When the British conglomerate ran into financial trouble, Gartner led a 1990 leveraged buyout. But soon after, a board controlled by Dun & Bradstreet Corp. installed new managers. Stripped of power, Gartner walked.

Why another startup when he could be practicing classical piano at home in Aspen, Colo., St. Thomas, V.I., or Westport, Conn.? "I just got into this [idea] totally. I don't know if it's ego-fulfillment, to show if I can do it again," he says. Gartner plans to stick to his strengths: research, strategy, new markets, and chatting up customers. Ex-colleagues say he is a brilliant presenter but a poor manager. So Gartner is hiring a COO who will be groomed to take over as CEO. Good start for a consultant: taking wise counsel.

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