BREAKINGVIEWS - Larry Ellison's anti-HP rant turns weirdly sloppy

Sat Oct 30, 2010 2:08pm IST

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison addresses the audience during his keynote address at Oracle Open World in San Francisco, California September 22, 2010.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison addresses the audience during his keynote address at Oracle Open World in San Francisco, California September 22, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith/Files

Related Topics

-- The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

By Robert Cyran

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Larry Ellison's anti-HP ranting has turned weirdly sloppy. Oracle's billionaire chief executive and founder is known for his acerbic, and very often witty, tongue. Yet his latest late-night missive -- daring Hewlett-Packard's new chief executive Leo Apotheker to show up in court -- looks more messy than sharply penned. Perhaps the prospect of tougher competition with HP is getting under Ellison's skin after all.

The recent management travails of HP and its gaffe-prone board have been a rich target. Ellison has bluntly stated the company is on the wrong path, its best executives are underappreciated, the new boss is poorly qualified, and that the board is incompetent. All of these are relatively fair points, even if they are made by a rival.

But his latest rant, sent to the media at 11:11 p.m. New York time, is just bizarre -- at the very least in need of a copy edit. In grammatically-challenged fashion, he dares Apotheker to show up in court and disprove that he oversaw the massive theft of Oracle's intellectual property while at SAP.

"Well, that's what we are planning to do during the trial that starts next Monday. Unless, [chairman] Mr. Lane and the rest of the HP Board of Directors decide to keep their new CEO far, far away from HP Headquarters until that trial is over."

SAP has admitted in court documents that its subsidiary stole Oracle's software. That's execrable conduct. But whether Apotheker was a ringleader, as Oracle claims -- or the man who argued for shuttering the division, as some in SAP's camp have contended -- is unclear. Either way, Ellison has made the affair personal: "I hope I'm wrong, but my guess is that new HP's Chairman, Mr. Lane, will keep HP's new CEO, Mr. Apotheker, far, far away from the Courthouse until this trial is over."

Oracle already questioned Apotheker in a sworn deposition about the matter. Yet it didn't name him as a definite witness until after he was appointed to lead HP. And contrary to what Ellison claims, Apotheker wasn't given sole hand on the reins at SAP until after the division was shut down. Unless Oracle has dramatic new evidence it plans to unveil in court, Ellison looks like he's protesting too much -- and frankly a bit out of control. Maybe it's his board that needs more scrutiny.

CONTEXT NEWS

-- Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison has said he can prove Leo Apotheker oversaw massive theft of Oracle's intellectual property while he was a top SAP executive. Apotheker was recently appointed as chief executive at Hewlett-Packard.

-- SAP has admitted in court documents that it stole Oracle's software. A trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 1 to determine damages. Oracle seeks $2 billion, while SAP says tens of millions of dollars would be reasonable.

-- Ellison, in a statement released late Oct. 26, wrote: "Unless, [chairman] Mr. Lane and the rest of the HP Board of Directors decide to keep their new CEO far, far away from HP Headquarters until that trial is over. If HP keeps Leo Apotheker far from HP headquarters we cannot subpoena him to testify at that trial. I don't think Ray Lane wants to risk Leo Apotheker testifying under oath as to why he allowed the theft of Oracle's property to continue for eight months after he was made sole CEO of SAP. I hope I'm wrong, but my guess is that new HP's Chairman, Mr. Lane, will keep HP's new CEO, Mr. Apotheker, far, far away from the Courthouse until this trial is over."

-- An HP spokesperson replied, "Oracle had ample opportunity to question Leo during his sworn deposition in October 2008 and chose not to include him as a trial witness until he was named CEO of HP. Given Leo's limited knowledge of and role in the matter, Oracle's last-minute effort to require him to appear live at trial is no more than an effort to harass him and interfere with his duties and responsibilities as HP's CEO."

(Editing by Rob Cox and Emily Plucinak)

FILED UNDER:
  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Coal

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Kotak-ING Deal

Kotak-ING Deal

Kotak Mahindra to acquire ING Vysya Bank  Full Article 

Ranbaxy in U.S.

Ranbaxy in U.S.

U.S. court overturns bid by Ranbaxy to block launch of rival generic drugs.  Full Article 

Edible Oil

Edible Oil

Indians get taste for branded edible oil as prices drop, incomes rise.  Full Article 

Financial Tech CEO

Financial Tech CEO

Financial Tech founder steps down as CEO   Full Article 

Canpotex Deal

Canpotex Deal

Canpotex signs potash sales deals to India  Full Article 

Tech Acquisition

Tech Acquisition

Tech Mahindra to buy U.S.-based network services operator for $240 million   Full Article 

Fired for Overbilling

Fired for Overbilling

Infosys unit's overbilling Apple led to exit of top execs - sources.  Full Article 

Real Estate Investment

Real Estate Investment

JM Financial subsidiary gets $87 mln from Vikram Pandit-led fund  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage