Oracle vs. SAP: Catz offers real-world insight that Ellison doesn't have

When it comes to driving home the big-money details, Oracle's Catz may have upstaged her boss: CEO Larry Ellison
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

Larry Ellison is a rich guy who has rich guy toys and rich guy tastes and is certainly used to getting what he wants. Despite his humbled upbringings, he lives in a world today of luxury, where the idea of spending millions or billions of dollars on something you want isn't out of the realm.

Maybe that's why I didn't seem to get this true sense of concern or urgency from Ellison as he testified this week in his company's legal battle with SAP. The words "million" or "billion" seemed to flow from his tongue as if he were talking about the latest investment in his racing yacht or some exotic car. His testimony was filled short answer replies- things like "that is correct" and "yes, it was a concern" - that tended to be a bit curt and abrupt at times.

Sure, he said he had serious concerns about SAP-TomorrowNow but he certainly couldn't prove he felt that way - not "with an email, a presentation or even a scribble on a napkin," as SAP's lawyer Tharan Lanier asked during his questioning.

In all, Ellison's testimony didn't seem to help Oracle and the theatrics that a room full of reporters came to chronicle - maybe something exciting like an emotional outburst about how HP won't make Leo Apotheker accept its subpoena - never happened. Ellison, whisked into the corridors of the courthouse and probably out of some back door, didn't stick around long enough to offer any added color or commentary.

Co-president Safra Catz, however, may have saved the day. She brought a bit of a softer side to the stand, wearing her emotions a bit more and emphasizing, with her voice, the magnitude of the dollars in question. She spoke of the $11 billion that Oracle paid to acquire PeopleSoft with a slight gasp that suggested that she, like those of us sitting in that jury booth with the actual jurors, was also taken aback by such a large number.

Unlike Ellison, Catz offered thorough responses that went into greater detail, offering insight based on her years as an investment banker and even pausing a time or two to explain some financial jargon so the jury might better understand. Her explanations of how financial projections are made or how software is licensed were presented in a way that my own school-aged kids might have understood.

She also drove home one powerful quote that took the sting out of the word "million" and packed a punch with a couple of other words: "bad bahavior." The quote: "SAP paying us $40 million is a reward for their bad behavior."

Meanwhile, somewhere across the Atlantic...

New HP CEO Leo Apotheker, the former SAP CEO who Ellison maintains was at the center of the intellectual property theft, apparently has a subpoena bounty on his head. (Remember what I said about Elllison getting his way?)

Reuters is reporting that Oracle has hired private investigators to track down Apotheker so he can be served with a subpoena to testify in this trial. But HP has refused to accept the subpoena for Apotheker or to make him available the company, accusing Oracle of trying to harass its new CEO. Update: AllThingsD reports process servers are trying to track down Apotheker---not investigators.

If he's out of the country, the company won't be able to serve him. And it's unclear what, if anything, he would have to offer beyond what he's already said in an earlier deposition.

And just because it's about Ellison...

Larry has taken on his share of opponents in the past but can he take on the World Champions San Francisco Giants? A column item by San Francisco Chronicle icons Mattier & Ross Monday noted that an effort to bring the America's Cup regatta to San Francisco may hit a snag over plans by the Giants to develop the same waterfront area with a concert hall or basketball arena.

San Francisco mayor and California Lt. Gov-elect Gavin Newsom had suggested an alternative location with lower pier rehabilitation costs for the yachts but Ellison, who gets to make the final call because he is the current cup winner, has rejected that plan.

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