November 19, 2010, 4:30 PM — It looks like Hewlett-Packard chief executive Leo Apotheker won't have to conduct Monday's earnings conference call from his special underground bunker.
The evidence phase of the Oracle-SAP trial in a federal court in Oakland, Calif., concluded Friday without a subpoena-forced appearance by Apotheker, who Oracle lawyers dearly wanted to put on the witness stand to question him about what he knew regarding the copyright infringement admittedly perpetrated by SAP subsidiary TomorrowNow back when the elusive German was running SAP (instead of just running).
But even the investigators hired by Oracle couldn't locate Apotheker, and HP refused to divulge his whereabouts. The software giant hired the German-born Apotheker, 57, in late September, nearly two months after the abrupt resignation of chief executive Mark Hurd over allegations of sexual harassment and expense-account irregularities.
Oracle, of course, hired Hurd soon after to be co-president of the company founded by CEO Larry Ellison, who has been trash-talking HP about forcing out Hurd and replacing him with Apotheker.
The trial is being held to determine how much SAP must pay Oracle in damages. Oracle wants more than $4 billion, while SAP wants to tens of millions or so.
Here's what I'm wondering: When Apotheker finally shows up at HP's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters more than three weeks after he started the job, will his standing with company employees be diminished in any way? After all, he's basically been hiding since Nov. 1 so he wouldn't be served a subpoena. What kind of impression does that leave on the rank-and-file? Maybe they'll think what he did was shrewd. To me, though, going on the lam to avoid testifying when you're supposed to be starting your new job isn't very CEO-like. It certainly isn't manning up.
HP employees are free to weigh in on this, as are Oracle and SAP employees (that means you too, Larry).
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.