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McAfee Is Banking on Brand Nostalgia for New Notoriety

Good tech brands are really tough to kill. (It’s true in publishing too, says the guy working for a nearly 87-year-old brand.) BlackBerry lives well past its due date. Siebel lurks within Oracle. Dell has survived falling out of favor, private-equity ownership, and a merger with EMC.

Now another great technology brand of yesteryear, McAfee, is an independent company again, having been spun out from acquirer Intel (INTC), which remains its biggest shareholder. Purchasing McAfee was a financial and strategic whiff for Intel, one of many the chip giant has made over the years. McAfee was one of the top players in what once was known as antivirus software. Intel saw an opportunity to incorporate “security” software into its chips.

The plan didn’t work out. As Michal Lev-Ram reports, McAfee’s public-market valuation of $4.2 billion is a far cry from the $7.7 billion Intel paid for it six years ago. The chip giant will share ownership with a private-equity group, including TPG, a shareholder of Uber. Intel made a habit of buying high and selling low in communications chip companies during the dot-com boom. Its record hasn’t improved much since.

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Its new investors will look to pivot McAfee from antivirus to security, a crowded yet buzzy space that favors the young rather than the well-installed. And yet, its name evokes a certain nostalgia, a memory of past glories and current market weight. McAfee CEO Chris Young tells Lev-Ram the company will bulk up. The hunted will turn hunter as the tech M&A worm turns, a game certain to benefit investment bankers if no one else.

All the while, the McAfee brand endures. All that’s left to see is what becomes of it next.