Oracle gives Autonomy’s Mike Lynch a public roasting

29 Sep 2011

Carrick-on-Suir native Mike Lynch, who is selling his Cambridge-based software company Autonomy to HP

As part of its ongoing enmity with HP, Oracle has turned its sights on Irishman Mike Lynch’s Autonomy; seizing in particular on Lynch’s denial that he tried to interest Oracle in Autonomy.

Autonomy is in the middle of a stg£7bn sale to HP. In recent days, new HP CEO Meg Whitman reiterated that the acquisition is still on.

The cold war between HP and Oracle stems from its current president Mark Hurd’s sacking as CEO of HP last year following a sexual harassment scandal. Very quickly Oracle CEO Larry Ellison came to Hurd’s rescue and appointed him president of Oracle.

Before HP had announced plans to acquire Autonomy, both Oracle and Microsoft had been rumoured to be eyeing the company.

However, a recent denial by Lynch in comments to the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog that he had any contact with Oracle about a potential sale of Autonomy, has clearly incensed Oracle which has decided to tell all.

Oracle issued the following statement:

“Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch continues to insist that Autonomy was never ‘shopped’ to Oracle. But now at least he remembers and admits to meeting with Oracle president Mark Hurd and Doug Kehring, Oracle’s head of M&A, this past April. But CEO Lynch insists that it was a purely technical meeting, limited to a ‘lively discussion of database technologies.’ Interesting, but not true. The slides Lynch showed Oracle’s Mark Hurd and Doug Kehring were all about Autonomy’s financial results, Autonomy’s stock price history, Autonomy’s price/earnings history and Autonomy’s stock market valuation. 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. After the sales pitch was over, Oracle refused to make an offer because Autonomy’s current market value of $6bn was way too high. 

“We have put Mike Lynch’s PowerPoint slide sales pitch up on the Oracle website – – with the hope Mike Lynch will recognise his slides, his memory will be restored, and he will recall what he and Frank Quattrone discussed during their visit to Oracle last April. Yesterday, the Autonomy CEO did not remember having any meeting with Oracle. Today, he remembers the April meeting and inaccurately describes how it came about and what was discussed (see next paragraph). Tomorrow, he will need to explain his slides.

“Mike Lynch describes his meeting with Oracle: ‘On one of my trips to SF (April 2011), Frank Quattrone, whom I have known for a long time offered to introduce me to Mark Hurd. Oracle was a customer and I have never met him, so it was a good opportunity. Frank does this from time to time on my visits, he has introduced me to many people. NOTE: Frank was not engaged by Autonomy and there was no process running. The company was not for sale. I recall meeting with Mark and someone else I believe called Doug. At the start of the meeting they joked that Frank was there to sell them something. Frank and I made it clear that was not the case. We then met and had a lively discussion about database technologies. The meeting lasted approximately 30 mins. Frank is happy to confirm this.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years