Is Leo Apotheker on the lam?

Oracle unable to serve trial subpoena to former SAP chief, claims he's avoiding HP office

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This is getting good.

Remember when I wrote Tuesday that former SAP chief executive Leo Apotheker, who just started his new job as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, would testify at the trial to determine the amount of damages owed Oracle by SAP for admitted copyright infringement?

Turns out that was Oracle attorney Geoffrey Howard asserting, in his opening statement at U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., that Apotheker would testify. Apotheker appears to have other plans. From the Wall Street Journal:

"Hewlett-Packard has refused to accept service of a subpoena requiring Mr. Apotheker to testify about his role in SAP's illegal conduct," an Oracle spokeswoman said in a prepared statement issued Wednesday. "Mr. Apotheker started work for H-P on Monday, but it now appears that the H-P board of directors has decided to keep him away from H-P's headquarters and outside the court's jurisdiction."

The thing is, I think Oracle definitely counted on serving Apotheker with the subpoena when he went to work this week at HP headquarters in Palo Alto. They're probably surprised he hasn't shown up. I'm certainly surprised. Meanwhile, HP's response is lame:

An H-P spokeswoman reiterated a previous statement, saying: "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 H-P's CEO."

The spokeswoman declined to discuss the whereabouts of Mr. Apotheker, who in early October said he would spend weeks, perhaps months, traveling the world to meet with H-P employees, customers and shareholders.

You know, I gotta do a 180 on Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. I wrote that his statement last week -- essentially daring Apotheker to show up at work on Monday, the day the trial was due to start -- was petulant grandstanding. Now I realize it was brilliant.

Think about it: He's got the new CEO of one of his major rivals seemingly hiding from his office during his first week on the job, when he should be making the rounds, rallying the troops, making a short list of who to fire...you know, taking the reins.

Instead Apotheker is MIA, his whereabouts a mystery, at least to the outside world. Unless, of course, he went with the disguise strategy, which would up the ante on brilliance.

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