1990 - From software to glass: NBI survived, evolved
Necton Bylinnium Inc., a homegrown word-processing software and hardware maker, had risen to fame and created several fortunes during the previous 15 years. By 1990, it was sputtering. NBI garnered the dubious distinction of tallying, at 17, the most consecutive quarterly losses of any company on the New York Stock Exchange.
NBI began in 1973 as the brainchild of Boulder entrepreneur and inventor Howard “Binx” Selby. In 1975, Selby placed NBI in the hands of Tom Kavanagh, a co-founder of high-tech giant Storage Technology Corp. of Louisville, and the company began its rocket ride to success. Between 1975 and 1980, NBI grew annually at 150 percent. It went public in 1979 at $20 a share. By July 1981, NBI ranked ninth on Inc. magazine’s “Inc. 100” list. By 1983, NBI stock’s worth more than doubled.
When IBM introduced its personal desktop computer in the early 1980s, it spelled doom for NBI as a maker of document-processing systems.
In 1984, NBI tried diversifying into the office products business but could never make that division profitable. By 1988 it was history and so was Tom Kavanagh, who found himself head of a company that had losses of almost $50 million over two years.
By 1989, the company was more than $54 million in debt, had defaulted on its corporate bond interest payments and was forced to drop its proprietary computer systems product line. Its corporate headquarters in Boulder ultimately was sold to the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
In a last-ditch effort to avoid bankruptcy, NBI tried to initiate a stock swap with its investors. Investors didn’t bite. By February 1991, NBI was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
After it emerged successfully in 1992, NBI evolved into something virtually unrecognizable from its former self in Longmont. It acquired a company that made hand-pressed glass into such things as crystal baskets. It also bought and sold a Holiday Inn.