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New Chief Doesn't Recall Such a Vow, Wonders About Miscommunication

San Francisco ( — Jack Messman, the incoming CEO of struggling software firm Novell, has vowed to "do the honorable thing" and take his own life if he is unable to turn company fortunes around within six months, a Novell spokesman announced today.

Would you die for your company?

"Mr. Messman has courageously volunteered to kill himself should he not be able to make Novell the No. 1 software firm in the world in half a year's time," Novell spokesman Harry Schiff said at a press conference this morning. "We applaud his integrity and anxiously await the results."

Messman, who was also at the briefing, thanked Schiff for the kind words, but confessed he was "a little fuzzy on this whole 'kill myself' thing.

"Are we talking metaphorical 'kill myself,' like 'Oh gosh, I'll work so hard for you guys I'll kill myself'? I might have said that," stated Messman. "Or are we talking 'I'll kill myself dead suicide lots of blood' kind of kill myself? Cause that's the part that doesn't sound very familiar."

After an uncomfortable pause, Schiff suddenly broke into a broad grin. "Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see, our new chief executive has quite the dry sense of humor. No doubt this will serve him well as he transforms our company into the world leader, or else."

Messman, who succeeds Eric Schmidt as CEO, was previously the head of Cambridge Technology Partners, which Novell is purchasing for $266 million. Once a top networking software firm, Novell has lost market share to Microsoft and Linux and suffered quarterly revenue decreases. Schmidt, who will remain as chairman, apologized for not turning Novell around himself, but confessed he wasn't willing to "put my life on the line" as his successor is.

"What Novell needs right now is a leader who won't accept anything short of success," said Schmidt, who joined the company in 1997. "The fact that Jack has committed to kill himself — not just any old way, but slowly, painfully, using a combination of flesh-eating toxins, brain damaging poisons, rabid hyenas, and dull heavy razors aimed at the testicles — shows you how much he believes in Novell and its people."

"Was that in my contract?" asked Messman, "because that's the kind of thing I think I would remember. Honestly."

After sharing a knowing wink with Messman, Schmidt continued, "Oh sure, toppling Microsoft and Sun and the other firms might seem like an impossible task for you and me, especially in only six months, and especially since we don't have the right products for the job. But we're not Jack Messman. We're not standing before you today saying, 'Give me market share or give me death!'"

Messman's comical protests of "But I'm not saying that!" did not fool his new colleagues, who eventually drowned him out with their laughter.


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