Can a bounty hunter be far behind?

Oracle hires private detectives to locate the elusive CEO of Hewlett-Packard to testify

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This is really getting bizarre, which of course means it's really getting entertaining.

Reuters reports that database giant Oracle has hired private detectives to find Leo Apotheker, the new chief executive of Hewlett-Packard.

(Also see: Is Leo Apotheker on the lam?)

Apotheker had been CEO of Oracle rival SAP, which has admitted to stealing software from Oracle through its now-defunct TomorrowNow subsidiary. The trial that began last Monday in a U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif. is about determining how much SAP must pay Oracle in damages for the admitted transgression. Oracle is seeking about $4 billion, while SAP insists the damage should be only in the tens of millions.

Oracle has issued a subpoena for Apotheker and hoped to serve him when he showed up for his first day of work on Nov. 1 at HP's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters. But Apotheker appears not to have ever made it to the office (which, one would hope, is now part of his personnel file in HR), and company officials refuse to divulge his whereabouts.

Reuters quoted SAP spokesman Bill Wohl as saying, "The interest in Mr. Apotheker on the part of (Oracle CEO Larry) Ellison only happened recently, as a result of Leo's appointment to run HP."

Well, yeah, but that's probably because Apotheker, a native of Germany, was beyond the reach of a U.S. subpoena while overseas. Once he took the HP job, it became possible for Oracle to at least attempt to serve him with a subpoena to testify.

There's a great reality show in all of this.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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