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Scott McNealy’s Marketing Startup Buys British Rival, Replaces Him as CEO

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Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy in 2009.Photograph by Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

They say the first thing every business professional should do after a promotion is find his or her replacement. Scott McNealy bought one instead.

Last spring, the Sun Microsystems co-founder made headlines by abruptly stepping up as CEO of social marketing company Wayin, which he launched in October 2011. The Denver-based startup began life as a reference site (think Quora or Pinterest). It reinvented itself as a social analytics firm when McNealy returned, raising $15.4 million to advance that mission.

Now, Wayin is using some of that money to buy a U.K. interactive marketing and social firm called EngageSciences. The leader of that company, Richard Jones, will take over from McNealy as CEO of the combined company. The latter will stay on as executive chairman, focusing on strategy.

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“They have a real CEO,” McNealy told Re/code. “We had an old washed-up CEO. It all made sense. I’m back where I belong as chairman and chief cheerleader.”

Wayin’s software uses IBM Watson analytics technology to sift through hundreds of millions of social media posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other sites. Its mission is to identify ones (including images) that marketers can share as part of their campaigns. Some of its publicly declared customers included Coca-Cola, Dunkin’ Donuts, Nike, Walgreens, and The Weather Channel.

EngageSciences specializes in both social analytics and in delivering digital advertising across a variety of formats, including billboards in sports arenas. Its clients include AOL, Bauer Media, Discovery, Microsoft, Rogers Communications, and Vodafone.

Together, the companies are working with approximately 300 brands. “With more than 500 million campaign entries on the combined platform, we are looking at approximately one in 14 of the world’s population having already participated in a brand campaign run on the combined company’s platform,” McNealy said in a statement. “By next year, that number will be one in seven.”

After the merger, the combined company will keep its headquarters in Denver.