Exclusive: Oracle enlists private eyes to find HP CEO

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Oracle Corp has hired private investigators to track down Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker, believing testimony by the former SAP chief will help its efforts to claim about $4 billion in damages for software theft, a source with knowledge of the situation told Reuters.

Oracle has subpoenaed Apotheker -- who began his job only last Monday -- but HP has refused to accept the subpoena, saying the U.S. software corporation is trying to harass him. Experts say HP may be wary of exposing their new chief, whose appointment surprised Wall Street and Silicon Valley, to a courtroom attack that may undermine his credibility.

Oracle and Europe’s top software maker are engaged in a legal battle that has transfixed Silicon Valley.

Executives with SAP, which has admitted to software theft by a subsidiary, TomorrowNow, but argues it owes Oracle only tens of millions of dollars, have said Apotheker was put in charge of the unit, but shut down the operation as soon as he discovered wrongdoing.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the search was not yet made public, told Reuters that Apotheker’s lawyers at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher also refused to accept the subpoena. If he is overseas, Oracle will be unable to serve him and have to await his arrival in California, the source added.

Oracle and HP declined comment.

“The interest in Mr. Apotheker on the part of Mr. Ellison only happened recently, as a result of Leo’s appointment to run HP,” SAP spokesman Bill Wohl said.

“That recent interest speaks volumes about why it’s important to them. The question is, does that at all have anything to do with this case?”

Reporting by Dan Levine. Editing by Edwin Chan and Robert MacMillan