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Pushups or NBA titles, new Kings owner Ranadive

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POSTED October 28, 2013 10:03 p.m.

PALO ALTO (AP) — On any given day here at his company’s Silicon Valley headquarters, Vivek Ranadive is ready to compete against any employee who wants to challenge him to any contest.

Once, the TIBCO Software chairman and new owner of the Sacramento Kings did 150 pushups to beat out a co-worker who thought he could do more. Another time, it was two-dozen pull-ups — holding his chin above the bar on the final repetition just to gloat. More recently, he finished a workout on a stair-stepper after breaking his left shoulder in a bicycle accident.

“I don’t like to lose,” he said.

Spend a little time around Ranadive, and that competitive spirit — the same one that convinced the NBA to allow him to buy the Kings instead of sell to a group that wanted to move them to Seattle last May — is impossible to ignore.

“When you think about how a pearl is made, it starts with an empty shell,” Ranadive said. “And an impurity, or an irritant, a grain of sand, gets into the shell. And then a pearl forms around it. And so to make something of beauty and value, you often need an irritant. My role is to be like the Chief Irritant. So I’m just going around annoying people.”

Ranadive moves at a frenetic pace. On a recent day, he was juggling calls from Sacramento to his native India between meetings and bowls of blueberries at TIBCO headquarters, an office park south of Stanford nestled near other technology giants such as Google, Apple and Facebook.

Ranadive, now 56, is credited with digitizing information for clients around the globe with software that gives instant updates and analysis. Since he founded TIBCO in 1997, it has grown into a billion-dollar-a-year enterprise with about 3,700 employees and offices in 31 countries.

“We move more information in a day on our backbone than Twitter moves in a month,” Ranadive said. “If TIBCO stopped working, then basically the banks would stop, the exchanges would stop, the airlines would stop, the phone companies would stop, national security would be compromised. Basically, you couldn’t get out of bed.”

Ranadive thrives on that responsibility. He has no problem delegating but he also admits he’s “not really comfortable not being the No. 1 guy. That’s who I am. I always do my own thing.”

That became apparent after Ranadive joined Joe Lacob’s group to buy the Golden State Warriors in 2010 and he was left with little influence over the franchise. So when Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson called him to anchor the coalition to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle earlier this year, Ranadive moved swiftly.

He sent TIBCO vice president and former San Francisco 49ers All-Pro running back Roger Craig — one of his closest friends — to find out more information. Craig knew immediately that Ranadive would mount a successful bid.

“Win, win, win. That’s the bottom line with Vivek,” Craig said. “That permeates over the whole company. That’s his attitude. Just win. Find a way to win.”

Ever since he could remember, Ranadive has dreamed big.

Vivek was 17 when he left India for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. He never asked for money from his parents because of the unrest at home. He said he showed up at MIT with “$50 in my pocket” and clothes that were “completely inadequate” for the harsh New England winters.

Ranadive earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT and an MBA from Harvard.

Ranadive relocated to Palo Alto in 1985 to start his first software company, which delivered electronic information to users in real time. Soon after, he met his former wife, Deborah Addicott, on a blind date at a Mexican restaurant in the San Diego area.

The couple, who divorced 15 years ago, have three children: Aneel, 29, lives in New York and recently started a software company; Andre, 24, is an executive with TIBCO who is helping design the Kings’ smartphone app; and Anjali, 20, is studying marine biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and is also an aspiring singer.

Ranadive, who smiles and laughs with almost every breath now, called the divorce one of the hardest times of his life. The shared custody left him devastated, but it also forced him to make the most of his time with his children.

Between entertaining friends at his Atherton home and hiking trails in Northern California, Ranadive is searching for a place in Sacramento to keep a closer watch on his newest project: the Kings.

There is an arena to be built and promises to be kept, and he has no plans to sit around and hope it all happens.

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