With the damages portion of its courtroom battle with SAP due to start next week, it's not exactly world-shaking news that Oracle intends to subpoena former top SAP executive Leo Apotheker to testify at the trial, which stems from SAP's admission that a former subsidiary illegally downloaded Oracle software.
But that relatively straightforward situation become infinitely more complex about one month ago when Hewlett-Packard decided to hire Apotheker as its new CEO, a decision that immediately pulled the longtime Oracle strategic partner into an increasingly bitter war of words with Oracle in a very public spat that is making it hard to fathom how the HP-Oracle alliance can survive and be productive for customers.
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison intensified that conflict late last night by issuing a statement that pointedly jabs HP board chairman Ray Lane in the chest and all but dares Apotheker to show up for work at HP headquarters in Palo Alto on Monday, Nov. 1, which happens to be both the day that Apotheker is slated to begin his new job and that the damages phase of Oracle-SAP trial is slated to begin about 40 miles away in Oakland.
Honestly, I'm not making up that Nov. 1 thing: as further proof that fact is always far more bizarre than fiction, it is 100% factual that Nov. 1 is the day that (a) Apotheker begins his new job as HP CEO and (b) Oracle and SAP begin to litigate the damages SAP must pay to Oracle for the illegal downloading of Oracle software performed by a former subsidiary of SAP while Apotheker was a high-level executive there.
And that coincidence forms the basis of last night's calmly worded but implication-rich statement from Ellison, in which he says that the only way HP can avoid having Apotheker testify live at the trial is to keep him "far, far away from HP headquarters":
"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 Oracle's software," said Ellison in the Oracle statement.
"A major portion of this theft occurred while Mr. Apotheker was CEO of SAP. HP's Chairman, Ray Lane, immediately came to Mr. Apotheker (sic) 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,' " continued Ellison as he warmed to his subject.
"Well, that's what we are planning to do during the trial that starts next Monday."
(For extensive background on the case and analyses of the dynamics among Oracle, HP, and SAP, check out our "Recommended Reading" list at the end of this column.)
Ellison then went after one of his favorite targets of late, the HP board of directors, whom he has recently excoriated for firing former CEO Mark Hurd (now president of Oracle), then for suing Hurd to try to prevent him from joining Oracle, and then for its subsequent decision to hire Apotheker to replace Hurd.
The only way Apotheker will not be compelled to testify at the trial, Ellison said, is if the HP board keeps Apotheker out of the country: