Why can't Larry Ellison just shut up?
Oracle chief executive launches pointless attack on HP CEO Leo Apotheker on eve of SAP trial
The intellectual-theft case brought by Oracle Corp. against business software giant SAP AG goes to trial in a federal court next week, but Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison just can't contain his petulance until then.
In a downright bizarre, but perhaps unsurprising, official statement released late Tuesday, Ellison launched another broadside against Leo Apotheker, who starts his new job as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard on Monday. Apotheker briefly held the top spot at Oracle rival SAP until February, when he was ousted following a bad year for the German software vendor.
The thing is, Ellison's statement came out of nowhere. It wasn't provoked, as far as I can tell, by anything people at HP or SAP said this week. He just apparently decided now was a good time to vent. Again.
By the way, SAP's guilt isn't at issue here. The company already has acknowledged that its now-defunct subsidiary, TomorrowNow Inc., had infringed on Oracle software copyrights, but contests Oracle's claim that is has suffered more than $1 billion in damages.
Here's Ellison's full statement:
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. A major portion of this theft occurred while Mr. Apotheker was CEO of SAP. 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. 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 property to continue for 8 months after he was made sole CEO of SAP. I hope I’m wrong, but my guess is that HP’s new Chairman, Mr. Lane, will keep HP’s new CEO, Mr. Apotheker, far, far away from the Courthouse until this trial is over.
So Oracle has evidence that Apotheker knew about the software theft? Great. Let the lawyers begin presenting it starting Monday. In the meantime, maybe it's best not to issue warnings that Apotheker shouldn't show up for work if he and Ray Lane know what's good for them, which essentially is what Ellison is doing. It's ridiculous.
I only hope somebody at Oracle or its PR firm tried to talk Ellison out of issuing Tuesday's statement. But I seriously doubt it. Who's going to risk their job standing up to the hyper-competitive, hyper-angry billionaire?
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.