Oracle accuses Autonomy of 'lying' over acquisition talks

by | 29 September 2011

Ugly war of words between Larry Ellison and Mike Lynch over pre-HP talks

Oracle has ripped into Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch over claims the companies spoke before the UK software house was acquired by HP in August this year.

The Redwood giant has put a couple of strongly-worded statements up on its website that claim Lynch either, "has a very poor memory or he's lying." As well as the statements Oracle has also published two presentations it claims prove Lynch was trying to shop his company.

According to the Wall Street Journal the war of words began when CEO Larry Ellison claimed during Oracle's recent financial results conference call that, "Autonomy was shopped to us. We looked at the price and thought it was absurdly high."

Lynch denied this was the case, claiming that, "If some bank happened to come with us on a list, that is nothing to do with [Autonomy]."

This is where things begin to get really ugly. The first statement to appear on Oracle website bluntly states: "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 $6bn, Autonomy was already extremely over-priced," the statement continue. "The Lynch shopping visit to Oracle is easy to verify. We still have his PowerPoint slides."

According to Oracle, Lynch again denied Autonomy had been shopped to Oracle. Under the heading "Another Whopper from Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch", the company presented Lynch's version of events.

"[Quattrone] was not engaged by Autonomy and there was no process running. The company was not for sale. I recall meeting with Mark and someone else I believe called Doug. At the start of the meeting they joked that Frank was there to sell them something. Frank and I made it clear that was not the case. We then met and had a lively discussion about database technologies. The meeting lasted approximately 30 mins. Frank is happy to confirm this," said Lynch, according to Oracle's statement.

"Interesting, but not true," Oracle responded. "The slides Lynch showed Oracle's Mark Hurd and Doug Kehring were all about Autonomy's financial results, Autonomy's stock price history, Autonomy's Price/Earnings history and Autonomy's stock market valuation. Ably assisting Mike Lynch's attempt to sell Autonomy to Oracle was Silicon Valley's most famous shopper/seller of companies, the legendary investment banker Frank Quattrone. After the sales pitch was over, Oracle refused to make an offer because Autonomy's current market value of $6bn was way too high."

To back up their point the company has uploaded the presentation slides to its website, which you can find here.

"We have put Mike Lynch's PowerPoint slide sales-pitch up on the Oracle website with the hope Mike Lynch will recognise his slides, his memory will be restored, and he will recall what he and Frank Quattrone discussed during their visit to Oracle last April."

Autonomy was eventually sold to HP for $11.7bn in August this year, a move that was designed to shift HP into the software and services space and away from the low-margin PC hardware industry.

HP CEO at the time, Leo Apotheker, was sacked last week after the board lost faith in his leadership. New CEO Meg Whitman has indicated the firm is still committed to the Autonomy deal.

Oracle and HP have not been friends for a while now. Another former HP CEO, Mark Hurd, quit the firm following allegations of sexual harassment and falsifying expenses and ended up on Oracle's board. Ellison described HP's decision as, "the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple Board fired Steve Jobs many years ago."

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