POSTED: Oct 28, 2013 6:21 PM ET
PALO ALTO, Calif. (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 push-ups 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.
It's how he built his software empire, and it's how he plans to shake up Sacramento's only major professional sports franchise.
"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. "The Power of Now," his company's slogan reads on a wall inside the entrance of its main building.
On a recent day, he was juggling calls from Sacramento to his native India between meetings and bowls of blueberries - his favorite part of his gluten-free diet - 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 - including the Wall Street trading floors - 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 - "the best thing I ever learned to do is surround myself with people way smarter than me," he said - 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, 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, who met Ranadive about 15 years ago when he accidentally sat in Ranadive's seats at a Stanford-Duke men's basketball game, 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.
He grew up the son of prominent parents in a beachside suburb of Mumbai, with servants to make his bed, carry his luggage and drive him around. The youngest of three children, he was always taking items such as watches and radios apart and reassembling them. And at age 11, his curiosity spread the night Neil Armstrong walked on the moon - July 20, 1969.
"My ear was plastered to the transistor radio when I heard those magical words, `One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,"' Ranadive said. "That was a pivotal moment in my life. It was like, `Wow. Who are these people who could take a man, put him in a box and send him 250,000 miles away to land on a rock and do it flawlessly?' That was incredible. What brilliance. What courage. What perseverance. I said, `OK. I'm going to study science and technology and I'm going to be one of them."'
Ranadive's urge to leave India strengthened because of the political turmoil at home.
His father flew spitfires during World War II and returned home a hero. But in the 1970s, after the parliament passed the controversial Maintenance of Internal Security Act, Ranadive said his father was arrested and jailed for challenging the safety record of India's planes. He was released after a lengthy court battle.
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. His engineering and technology career escalated, landing jobs with major clients such as Ford Motor Co. and Fortune Systems.
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.
The first time he picked up a basketball came while coaching his daughter's middle school team, which made it all the way to the national championships. Before then, his sports knowledge was limited to mostly soccer and cricket, because he played both while growing up in India. He also owns a black belt in Taekwondo.
These days, Ranadive said he always wakes up with "energy and optimism."
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 - to Sacramento, to the NBA and to India, where Ranadive wants to expand the league's presence. And he has no plans to sit around and hope it all happens.
"The same thing is true in the business world. In some ways, no matter how good you are, you need to show that you're getting better," Ranadive said. "If you work hard and you do the right things, I think you can make anything a winner."