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Oracle Case To Put Software All-Stars On The Stand
On a list of witnesses filed with the court Tuesday are none other than the principal players: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and PeopleSoft Chairman Craig Conway. Also on deck are IBM Software General manager Steve Mills, and Senior Vice President of Microsoft Business Solutions Doug Burgum, Siebel Systems Executive Vice President David Schmaier and PeopleSoft CTO Richard Bergquist. Filling in the roster are executives from Cox Communications, Verizon Communications, BearingPoint, Nextel Communications, Metro North and Charles Schwab.
The U.S. Justice Department has weighed in against Oracle's multibillion hostile attempt to buy applications rival PeopleSoft. Last week, the pricey buyout attempt became a little less expensive when Oracle reduced its bid from $9.3 billion to $7.7 billion, citing the swooning price of PeopleSoft's shares (see story). Some industry observers viewed that move as another signal that Oracle may be backing away from the controversial deal.
The trial is slated to begin June 7 at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Much of the case hinges on how the enterprise software space is defined. Oracle has argued that the market will continue to be hotly contested by a potential Oracle/Peoplesoft combination as well as SAP, Microsoft, Siebel and other companies. Not helping Oracle's case, Microsoft has said its Microsoft Business Solutions division has no designs on the enterprise market and focuses on small and midsize companies. Many observers characterize that contention as disingenuous and say that Microsoft already sees its applications going into large companies at a departmental level.
For the past year, PeopleSoft and Oracle executives--especially Conway and Ellison--have engaged in rancorous, back-and-forth exchanges, many verging on the personal. On Tuesday at a PeopleSoft conference in Las Vegas, Conway characterized the battle as "a saga that's gone on and on." But he also contended that the battle hasn't been a distraction, noting that "maybe 25 people at Peoplesoft [are involved day to day.] That leaves 11,975 people who every day come in to strategize, code products and sell them."
Oracle launched its hostile bid on June 6, 2003, just days after PeopleSoft disclosed plans to acquire software vendor J.D. Edwards (see CRN News Center).