The story of the Suffolk man who built one of the UK’s biggest tech companies, and why he’s been charged with fraud over its sale
PUBLISHED: 17:52 30 November 2018 | UPDATED: 20:22 30 November 2018
Mike Lynch has been charged with fraud in relation to the sale of a company to computer giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) - charges he strenuously denies. But who is he, and how did he become one of the biggest names in the world of business?
Mike Lynch’s company Autonomy Corporation was the UK’s largest software company before it was sold to Hewlett-Packard for £8.6bn in 2011.
After the sale, rather than retreating into the shadows, the Suffolk entrepreneur reinvented himself as a technology investor through his company Invoke Capital, backing those at the cutting edge of technological innovation.
Most notably, he has ploughed capital into cyber security firm Darktrace and Sophia Genetics, which specialises in clinical genomics.
So how did a boy from Essex, whose mum was a nurse and whose dad was a fireman, grow up to become such a heavyweight of the business world?
At the age of 11, his lucky break came from winning a scholarship to study at the prestigious Bancroft’s School in Essex. He went on to study natural sciences at Cambridge, and went on to do a PhD in signal processing and communications research.
In the 1980s, Mr Lynch founded Lynett Systems, which produced designs and audio products for the music industry. In 1991, he founded Cambridge Neurodynamics — a tech company focusing on computer-based fingerprint recognition.
Mr Lynch co-founded Autonomy as a spin-off from Cambridge Neurodynamics in 1996. One of its early products was a virtual dog, based on Mr Lynch’s own otterhound, Gromit.
Among a string of acquisitions, in 2007, Autonomy bought the video search engine Blinkx, and floated it on the stock exchange at a valuation of $250m.
In 2011, when Autonomy was sold to Hewlett-Packard, it was based in Cambridge and San Francisco and specialised in analysis of large scale unstructured big data.
The charges allege that between 2009 and 2011, Mr Lynch and Mr Chamberlain and other co-conspirators artificially inflated Autonomy’s revenues by overstating them, making misleading statements to regulators and market analysts covering the company. The charge sheet also says they “intimidated, pressured and paid off persons who raised complaints about or openly criticised Autonomy’s financial practices and performance.”
Mr Lynch has denied the charges, with a statement from his attorneys saying he “has done nothing wrong and will vigorously defend the charges against him”.
If convicted, Mr Lynch faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution, for each count of wire fraud and for the conspiracy count.
In his downtime, Mr Lynch is said to enjoy caring for rare breeds which include red poll cattle which he keeps at his Suffolk home.