Autonomy has struck back at Oracle's claims that Autonomy was trying to sell itself earlier this year, accusing Oracle of misrepresenting slides that came from a meeting in April.
Late on Wednesday, Oracle posted slides purporting to come from a meeting held between Oracle co-president Mark Hurd and Autonomy chief Mike Lynch, who came along with investment banker Frank Quattrone. The slides depicted Autonomy's financials, and Oracle said they proved Autonomy had been "shopping" itself around a while before it agreed to a £7.1bn takeover by HP.
That acquisition was almost certainly one of the key factors that led to HP sacking its chief executive, Leo Apotheker. In a move likely to further embarrass HP, Oracle said on Thursday that it had turned down Autonomy's sale offer because it thought the $6bn (£3.8bn) valuation was too much.
The slides were published on Oracle's website as having been "sent to Mark Hurd", who joined Oracle last year after being forced out of HP amid sexual and expense-related scandal. Drawn up by investment bank Qatalyst , they are dated "January 2011", which was months before the April meeting between Autonomy and Hurd.
Seizing on this fact, Autonomy said on Thursday that Qatalyst had prepared and sent the PowerPoint presentations to Hurd on its own steam, as mergers and acquisition bankers are wont to do.
"It may well be that investment banks were independently recommending Autonomy as an acquisition target to industry players — that is standard practice for M&A bankers — but this would not have been at our behest," Autonomy said. "This is the first time we have seen [the slides]. Autonomy was not involved in this nor was Qatalyst engaged by Autonomy until mid-year."
Autonomy said the 30-40-minute meeting between Autonomy and Hurd had been "set up by Frank Quattrone as an introduction to Mark Hurd", as Oracle is an Autonomy customer.
"In the meeting, and in response to a joke about Mr Quattrone's presence, it was made clear that Autonomy was not for sale and no sale process was under way," the British firm explained. "Mr Quattrone's company was not engaged by Autonomy at that time. There has been no other contact with Oracle since then."
The whole spat started last Tuesday, when Oracle boss Larry Ellison said on an investor call not only that his company had turned down an Autonomy sale offer, but also that customers would benefit from taking Oracle's rival to Autonomy's information management software.
"We think we really don't want to have two separate databases kind of an Autonomy-like unstructured database and an Oracle-structured database. We think that data should be integrated with a single database technology," Ellison said at the time.
Those quotes earned a rebuke from Lynch, who told told The Wall Street Journal a week later that Ellison's "understanding of the problems in the unstructured world is very weak", while also denying the sale offer claim. This kicked off Oracle's latest retorts, and the publication of the slides.
In its statement on Thursday, Autonomy said Oracle's insistence that Autonomy had been shopping itself around was merely "an attempt at diversion from their poor positioning". It also used its stance in the original argument to poke fun at Oracle.
"Oracle seems a little confused about the sequence of events and origins of the data it has received, something that would suggests it needs better management of and insight into the unstructured data on its internal systems," Autonomy said. "We would be delighted to help."