John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Ellison Taunts HP CEO a Second Time

If Larry Ellison’s Tuesday evening harangue against former SAP chief Léo Apotheker was, in the words of an SAP spokesperson, “a sideshow,” then the Oracle CEO’s latest tirade is more of a gala.

With Oracle’s high-profile trade secrets case against SAP scheduled to begin in a few days, Ellison is in rare form and is filing copy like Hunter S. Thompson’s software magnate doppelgänger.

On Wednesday evening, Ellison let loose with another screed against Apotheker and his new employer, Hewlett-Packard, accusing the former of knowingly stealing Oracle’s intellectual property and the latter of helping him dodge a subpoena.

“HP Chairman Ray Lane has taken the position that Léo Apotheker is innocent of wrongdoing because he didn’t know anything about the stealing going on at SAP while Léo was CEO,” Ellison wrote. “The most basic facts of the case show this to be an absurd lie. Oracle sued SAP for stealing in March of 2007. Léo became CEO of SAP in April of 2008. Léo knew all about the stealing. In fact, Léo did not stop the stealing until 7 months after he became CEO. Why so long? We’d like to know. Ray Lane and the rest of the HP Board do not want anyone to know. That’s the new HP Way with Ray in charge and Léo on the run. It’s time to change the HP tagline from ‘Invent’ to ‘Steal’.”

Did I say Ellison’s latest tirade was more of a gala? Make that carnival–or bacchanal. This is goading of the top order, beginning with an accusation of outright theft and deceit, and ending with the verbal desecration of the hallowed HP Way, which Ellison attributes to Lane–a former Oracle president.

Sadly, Ellison gets his facts wrong again. As I noted here yesterday, Apotheker didn’t become SAP’s sole CEO until June of 2009–seven months after SAP shuttered the TomorrowNow division at the center of Oracle’s suit. But as I also noted yesterday, that’s just semantics. Apotheker wasn’t just some prole prior to his CEO appointment; he was co-CEO.

And anyway, who’s this latest philippic of Ellison’s really about? HP Chairman Lane’s name is mentioned in it nearly as many times as Apotheker’s. And he never worked for SAP.

But he did work for Oracle–until he ran afoul of Ellison–and now, of course, he works for HP, an Oracle rival. Look at the statement through that lens and you’ll see that it actually fulfills a threefold purpose:

  1. Trash-talking SAP
  2. Trash-talking Apotheker to smear HP
  3. And trash-talking Lane to smear HP and vent some old resentments

This trial is every bit as much about HP as it is about SAP.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik