Autonomy hits back at Oracle in deal spat

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2011 2:30 PM
Autonomy hits back at Oracle in deal spat

LONDON (Reuters) - A war of words between Oracle and Autonomy escalated on Thursday when dealmaker Frank Quattrone and Autonomy chief Mike Lynch disputed the U.S. software giant's claims about the nature of a meeting all three parties attended in April.

Oracle said Lynch and Quattrone touted Autonomy -- which later found a buyer in Hewlett-Packard (HP) for $11.7 billion -- at that meeting.

Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison claimed in an earnings call on September 20 that Autonomy was "shopped to us," adding he had no interest in paying an "absurdly high" price.

Outspoken billionaire Ellison has criticized HP frequently since the firing of CEO Mark Hurd in August 2010.

Autonomy CEO Lynch retaliated in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, saying Ellison's remarks were "just inaccurate," although he included the proviso that an investment bank could have approached Oracle with Autonomy's name on a list.

Lynch later said a meeting had taken place, but only to discuss "database technologies," according to a statement published on Oracle's website on Wednesday.

As well as Lynch, present were dealmaker Quattrone, Oracle's head of M&A Doug Kehring, and Hurd, who was hired by Ellison as Oracle co-president shortly after he was ousted from HP.

The statement on Oracle's website included a link to a presentation (oracle.com/PleaseBuyAutonomy), which claimed to show the true nature of the April meeting.

"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," the statement said.

"After the sales pitch was over, Oracle refused to make an offer because Autonomy's current market value of $6 billion was way too high."

Autonomy and Quattrone, however, said on Thursday that the slide presentation was not prepared for, or used in, the meeting.

"The slides Oracle posted publicly were sent by me to Mark Hurd in January, were prepared by (investment bank) Qatalyst and were for the purpose of our independently pitching Autonomy as an idea to Oracle," said Quattrone in a statement.

"These slides were not used in our April meeting with Mark and Doug."

The spat could not come at a worse time for HP, fighting to salvage its reputation with investors after the Autonomy deal and major strategic shift triggered a spate of events which led to the exit of chief executive Leo Apotheker.

New CEO Meg Whitman said when she was installed on September 22 that she expected to close the Autonomy deal.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by David Hulmes)