Ellison ‘Speechless’ Over HP Apotheker Appointment

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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s criticism of HP’s choice of Leo Apotheker as CEO could be the first shots in what promises to be a fierce competition

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is mincing no words about Hewlett-Packard’s recent appointment of Leo Apotheker as its chief executive. His vitriol emphasises the increasingly combative nature of the HP-Oracle relationship.

“I’m speechless,” Ellison reportedly wrote in an email to the Wall Street Journal, reprinted on 1 October. “HP had several good internal candidates … but instead they pick a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP.”

Ellison reportedly followed that missive with a weekend email to Reuters, which described SAP as an intellectual-property thief under Apotheker’s tenure. “SAP has already publically confessed and accepted financial responsibility for systematically stealing intellectual property over a long period of time,” Ellison wrote, according to the news service. “Much of this industrial espionage and intellectual property theft occurred while Leo was CEO of SAP.”

HP keeps its distance

HP has largely refrained from commenting on Ellison’s supposed attacks. The company anointed Apotheker as its chief executive on 30 September, replacing Mark Hurd, who stepped down in the wake of scandal and was promptly named co-president of Oracle.

“I bring to HP a lot international and global experience,” Apotheker told reporters and analysts during a 1 October conference call. “HP is a global company, and one of my attributes is that I’m a global citizen.” He also promised to expand HP’s focus to “every part of the stack.”

Apotheker’s nomination led to furious online debate over his relative merits as a chief executive. While some pundits expressed concern over what they perceived as his lack of consumer-product knowledge, the general consensus is that, after two decades at SAP, the man knows his enterprise software.

Stepping up to Oracle

That knowledge should prove useful as HP competes with Oracle for its share of enterprise IT. The combination of Apotheker and former Oracle COO/president Ray Lane, recently named HP’s chairman, “represent the strongest brain trust of folks who know how to fight Oracle and build a company that could do that well in particular,” Enderle Group principal analyst Rob Enderle wrote in a 1 October email to eWEEK.

HP will certainly focus more of its attention on software as a growth engine. “HP should be more valuable than the sum of its parts,” Apotheker said during his conference call. “We all believe that software is the glue to make that happen.” Not unsurprisingly, software is also a key part of Oracle’s plan to offer an integrated and holistic stack to its enterprise customers.

In the end, HP’s hiring Apotheker is as much a statement as Oracle hiring Hurd: Both companies seem to be gunning for a true battle royale in the quarters ahead.

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