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So what had Thomas Rattigan accomplished? He had stopped the bleeding, made Commodore profitable, and made it possible to push Amiga into it’s golden age;  the Commodore Amiga 500 and Amiga 2000. Both models were released within a couple of months of Rattigan’s termination. When a corporation is bleeding money, often the only way to save it is to drastically lower fixed expenses by firing staff. Commodore had lost over $300 million between September 1985 and March 1986, and over $21 million in March alone. Commodore’s new CEO, Thomas Rattigan, was determined to stop the bleeding. Rattigan began three separate rounds of layoffs. The first to go were the layabouts, people who hadn’t proven their worth to the company and were never likely to. The second round coincided with the cancellation of many internal projects. The last round was necessary for the company to regain profitability, However affected many good people and ultimately may have hurt the company in the long run. Top-Engineer Dave Haynie recalled that the first round was actually a good thing, the second was of debatable value, and the last was “hitting bone.” Rattigan also cleaned up the sloppy accounting processes that had been allowed to fester under his predecessor, Marshall Smith. Three redundant manufacturing plants were closed, and new financial controls were put into place to keep a tight check on spending. In all, the cuts did their job. Commodore paid off their debts and even posted a modest $22 million profit in the last quarter of 1986. However, Irving Gould, the enigmatic financier who controlled Commodore at a distance, started voicing concerns that the Amiga 500 and 2000 were taking too long to arrive. Thomas Rattigan’s fall came closer and closer, like many bosses before and after, was asking for the impossible. Making Commodore profitable was the first priority, and Rattigan had done that by slashing the payroll. Creating a more popular successor to the Amiga 1000 was the next priority, and the few remaining engineers were doing what they could with very limited resources. Rattigan knew that he could not win in a battle with Gould, who owned six million of Commodore’s 30 million shares.

For his part, Gould was a slippery opponent. He rarely came into the Commodore offices, preferring to spend his time phoning various employees, trying to dig up dirt on his own CEO. In April 1987, Irvin Gould hired the management consulting firm Dillon-Read to prepare a report on Commodore. The report suggested that Rattigan be immediately replaced, something Gould was more than happy to carry out. He called a board meeting, specifically excluding his CEO from attending. Rattigan knew that the game was up, but decided to stick it out to the end, and showed up for work the next morning. The guards had been ordered not to let him on the premises, but pretended that they hadn’t heard these instructions. “What the hell am I going to do?” one of them said. “The guy is running the company and turned it around, and I’m going to stop him from entering? Are you crazy?” The locks on his office door had been changed. Rattigan was met in the hallway by an army of lawyers, who informed him that he was no longer employed at Commodore. He asked what the basis was for his termination, but the lawyers could give him nothing but meaningless gibberish. Resigned to his fate, Rattigan allowed himself to be escorted out of the office. Standing in the parking lot, he took a look back at the company that he had saved, and wondered where it had all gone wrong. Gould had won, but it was a Pyrrhic victory at best. He had lost the best CEO he ever had, and worse still, had broken a legally binding contract to do so. Rattigan sued for breach of contract and $9 million of unpaid wages. Commodore immediately counter-sued for $24 million. The case wasn’t settled until 1991, which was ironically the expiry date of Rattigan’s original five-year contract. Rattigan won, and Commodore’s counter-sued was dismissed. What the Amiga could have done had Rattigan been allowed to stay is another of the many “what if” stories that pepper the Amiga tale, but it is what he did while he was there that mattered. By saving Commodore, he allowed the Amiga to survive, and in its new high-end and low-end forms it would find sales successes that the Amiga 1000 could only dream of. And because of these new models, the story of the Amiga split also. No longer was it just about the original creators, or the struggles of a company trying to introduce a revolutionary new technology. From now on, the Amiga tale would be about its users: a diverse group of people who found the platform in different ways and took it in different directions. Amiga was now about the gamers, about the bulletin board users, about the demo coders, about the hackers, and about the graphic artists, the animators, and the movie and television creators. It was now about the Amigans. The next man in charge after Thomas Rattigan was Mehdi Ali, who was recommended by management consulting firm Dillon-Read.

More news: Generation Amiga magazine