On Wednesday, Oracle escalated its very public spat with Autonomy – the British enterprise software outfit that Apotheker and HP purchased for $11.7 billion this summer – claiming to have proof that Autonomy “shopped” itself to Oracle before moving on to HP.
Many believe that HP grossly overpaid for Autonomy, and during an earnings call last week, Oracle chief exec Larry Ellison added more than a little fuel to the fire when he claimed that his company had turned down an offer to purchase Autonomy because the price was “absurdly high”. At the time, the British company had a market value of $6 billion.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Autonomy boss Mike Lynch denied Ellison’s claim, and Oracle responded with the sort of press release the company is famous for.
“Either Mr. Lynch has a very poor memory or he’s lying,” the press release read.
According to Oracle, at 11am on April 1, Lynch visited Oracle with investment banker Frank Quattrone, and the two met with Oracle head of mergers and acquisitions Douglas Kehring and Oracle president Mark Hurd. At the meeting, Lynch presented a sales pitch on PowerPoint slides – according to Oracle – and when he was finished, Kehring and Hurd said that with a market value of $6bn, Autonomy was “extremely over-priced.”
Then came the kicker. “The Lynch shopping visit to Oracle is easy to verify,” Oracle’s press release read. “We still have his PowerPoint slides.”
Autonomy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But on Thursday, Quattrone, Lynch’s banker, put out a statement denying Oracle’s claim. “The slides Oracle posted publicly were sent by me to Mark Hurd in January, were prepared by Qatalyst and were for the purpose of our independently pitching Autonomy as an idea to Oracle,” the statement read. “These slides were not used in our April meeting with Mark and Doug.”
In the end, the spat turns eyes back on HP, which has jettisoned Apotheker in favor of ex-eBay boss Meg Whitman but is still hounded by questions over his efforts to reinvent the struggling IT giant, including the purchase of Autonomy. Publicly, Whitman continues to back the deal, but that’s to be expected.
Nor is it a surprise that Ellison would attack the deal. The Oracle boss has been at odds with HP since the company cut ties with Mark Hurd, his old tennis buddy, and the war of words escalated when HP replaced Hurd with Apotheker, who previously ran Oracle arch rival SAP. Oracle had sued SAP subsidiary TommorrowNow, accusing the company of illegally downloading copyrighted Oracle software in an effort to pry customers from the database giant, and on Apotheker’s first day a HP, Ellison and company sent him a subpoena.
“A few weeks ago, I accused HP’s new CEO, Leo Apotheker, of overseeing an industrial espionage scheme centering on the repeated theft of massive amounts of Oracle’s software,” Ellison said in a statement the week before. “HP’s Chairman, Ray Lane, immediately came to Mr Apotheker’s defense by writing a letter stating, ‘Oracle has been litigating this case for years and has never offered any evidence that Mr. Apotheker was involved.’
“Well, that’s what we are planning to do during the trial that starts next Monday – unless 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.”