HP chief may appear in court as Silicon Valley prepares for clash of tech firms

City A.M. Reporter
Jury selection has kicked off in a Silicon Valley legal drama that could make for some of the best theater the technology industry has seen in years.

Larry Ellison, the co-founder and chief executive of software company Oracle, has waited two-and-a-half years to bring arch rival SAP to court on allegations that SAP stole Oracle’s software and resold the technology at bargain-basement prices.

The court proceedings got under way in US District Court in Oakland, California yesterday with one of Oracle’s highest-ranking executives in attendance. Safra Catz, Oracle’s president who rarely appears in public, sat quietly in the gallery as jury selection began. SAP co-chief executive Bill McDermott is expected in court today.

Oracle has attacked Hewlett-Packard Co for naming SAP’s former chief executive, Leo Apotheker, as its own CEO in late September. Ellison charges that Apotheker played a key role in the case. SAP, Europe’s biggest software maker, and HP have moved quickly to defend Apotheker.

HP and Oracle were close partners until three months ago. They became fast enemies following a series of executive shuffles that began in early August: HP fired its CEO, Mark Hurd, who is a close friend of Ellison. Hurd was accused of falsifying expense reports to hide a relationship with a female contractor. Oracle then hired Hurd as its president. HP responded by hiring Apotheker as its chief executive.