Colleagues have been wondering why Oracle has remained quiet about the demise of Léo Apotheker as CEO of HP and the appointment of Meg Whitman as a replacement. Now we know.
Earlier today, Oracle issued a statement which said:
"After HP agreed to acquire Autonomy for over $11.7 billion dollars, Oracle commented that Autonomy had been ‘shopped’ to Oracle as well, but Oracle wasn’t interested because the price was way too high. Mike Lynch, Autonomy CEO, then publically denied that his company had been shopped to Oracle. Specifically, Mr. Lynch said, “If some bank happened to come with us on a list, that is nothing to do with us.” Mr. Lynch then accused of Oracle of being ‘inaccurate’. Either Mr. Lynch has a very poor memory or he’s lying. ‘Some bank’ did not just happen to come to Oracle with Autonomy ‘on a list.’ The truth is that Mr. Lynch came to Oracle, along with his investment banker, Frank Quattrone, and met with Oracle’s head of M&A, Douglas Kehring and Oracle President Mark Hurd at 11 am on April 1, 2011. After listening to Mr. Lynch’s PowerPoint slide sales pitch to sell Autonomy to Oracle, Mr. Kehring and Mr. Hurd told Mr. Lynch that with a current market value of $6 billion, Autonomy was already extremely over-priced. The Lynch shopping visit to Oracle is easy to verify. We still have his PowerPoint slides.”
Ouch - but then while Oracle claims it has the meeting slides (which are subsequently published here and here), the company does not offer original minutes of the meeting which can be verified as evidence of Autonomy's 'shopping trip.' We have to take their word for what transpired.
I have little doubt of the substance Oracle is inferring but in doing so, I wonder the extent that it might be unintentionally throwing HP a get out of jail card. Here is why. In the next missive, Oracle says of the meeting:
...[Autonomy] CEO Lynch insists that it was a purely technical meeting, limited to a ‘lively discussion of database technologies.’ Interesting, but not true.
If it is not true then that calls into question the integrity of the CEO of the company HP appears contractually committed to buying at $11 billion and to which Whitman has lent her explicit support. If Lynch is in fact lying then it opens the door for HP to back away from the Autonomy deal.
Either way, and in advance of Oracle Open World, Oracle has scored a hit that both HP and Autonomy must regard as embarrassing. Nice timing.
Thinking ahead, one of the talking points among colleagues the last few days is how Oracle will try skewer HP in the post-Apotheker era. We now have a glimpse of that. What HP doesn't yet understand and what Oracle knows only too well - Oracle plays a game that anticipates at least the next two moves. If you're not playing the same game then chances are you will lose.
The Valley Mob will love this. Oracle is aligned with their flash mob/ADD mentality which can only work wonders in terrifying the financial analysts covering HP.