What HP has managed to accomplish here is truly remarkable ... and not in a good way. While the attention of the public and press should be squarely on an already compelling courtroom battle between Oracle and SAP, it is not; that attention has been diverted to a simple question relating to HP's newly hired CEO: Where's Leo?
Story after story yesterday and this morning highlight Oracle's ongoing efforts to serve a subpoena on HP CEO Leo Apotheker with the intention of having him testify as to what he knew of SAP's wrongdoing toward Oracle when Apotheker was at the helm of SAP.
Who cares whether SAP owes Oracle billions, as Oracle contends, or merely millions, as SAP would have the jury decide?
Who cares that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison - Larry Ellison! -- testified live and in person yesterday?
HP has made clear that this isn't simply a case of Apotheker being otherwise occupied, offering this statement to the press: "Oracle had ample opportunity to question Leo during his sworn deposition in October 2008 and chose not to include him as a live trial witness until he was named CEO of HP. 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."
And Oracle's rock-star attorney David Boies has made equally clear that he ain't buying it, saying after yesterday's testimony: "The embarrassment of avoiding trial is less than the embarrassment of testifying. We are trying to serve him. Still."
The potential embarrassment of testifying would need to be extraordinary in order to make the embarrassment that Apotheker and HP are absorbing now seem the lesser of evils.
As for that ongoing effort to serve Apotheker a subpoena, John Paczkowski of All Things Digital makes an important distinction in tamping down reports that Oracle has enlisted a posse of private eyes to find the guy:
Sources in a position to know tell me that the PIs rumored to be searching for Apotheker are actually PSs - process servers, agents charged with delivering subpoenas to their intended recipient. And, as federal law dictates, their search extends no further than 100 miles from the location of the trial, because if Apotheker is outside that 100-mile radius, they can't serve him. And Oracle can't compel him to testify. Which means it's not really worth the company's time or effort to hire Dog the Bounty Hunter to track him down in some Schwarzwald hideout.
It would make for must-see TV, though.
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