Oracle CEO claims can prove wrongdoing by new HP CEO

BOSTON Wed Oct 27, 2010 4:17am EDT

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison talks during his keynote address at Oracle Open World in San Francisco, California September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison talks during his keynote address at Oracle Open World in San Francisco, California September 22, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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BOSTON (Reuters) - Oracle Corp Chief Executive Larry Ellison said he can prove that Hewlett-Packard Co's incoming CEO oversaw a scheme to steal Oracle's software by rival SAP AG.

SAP has admitted in court documents that it stole Oracle's software. A jury trial is scheduled to begin on Monday to determine how much SAP should pay Oracle to settle the case, with Oracle seeking some $2 billion in damages and SAP saying that tens of millions of dollars would be reasonable.

The matter is complicated by boardroom moves that have unfolded over the past few months: HP sacked Mark Hurd as its CEO and Oracle hired him as one of its presidents. Then HP hired SAP's former CEO, Leo Apotheker, to replace Hurd and named former Oracle COO Ray Lane as its chairman.

Ellison said in a statement that Oracle intends to subpoena Apotheker, but it could not do so because the executive has been living outside the jurisdiction of the San Francisco area court that will try the case.

Apotheker is due to start work on Monday at HP, which is headquartered in nearby Silicon Valley. Company spokeswoman Mylene Mangalindan declined to comment on whether he would testify in the case.

HP and Oracle had long been partners who teamed up to sell HP's hardware bundled with Oracle's software. That relationship began to crack last year after Oracle agreed to buy hardware maker Sun Microsystems, and then collapsed after the recent round of executive hirings.

The two sides have been exchanging barbs for several weeks.

"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 of Oracle's software. A major portion of this theft occurred while Mr. Apotheker was CEO of SAP," Ellison said in a statement.

"HP's Chairman, Ray Lane, immediately came to Mr. Apotheker's 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.' Well, that's what we are planning to do during the trial that starts next Monday."

Hewlett-Packard responded by saying that Oracle had deposed Apotheker in October 2008 and that Ellison was insisting that he now testify in a bid to irritate his rival.

"Given Leo's limited knowledge of and role in the matter, Oracle's last-minute effort to require him to appear live at trial is no more than an effort to harass him and interfere with his duties and responsibilities as HP's CEO," Mangalindan said.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Bernard Orr and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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