And right on cue, here come the Larry Ellison theatrics over Hewlett-Packard's appointment of former SAP chief Léo Apotheker as its new CEO. "I'm speechless," he wrote in an e-mail to The Wall Street Journal. "HP had several good internal candidates...but instead they pick a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP."
Harsh words, though typical for the mercurial Oracle CEO, who's been publicly lambasting HP ever since it ousted Mark Hurd.
So far, HP's official comment on Ellison's criticism has been no comment. A representative told the Journal it doesn't "deserve the dignity of a response."
But sources familiar with the situation are hardly quiet about what they view as sophomoric posturing. "Larry should have stopped at 'I'm speechless,'" one told me. "He's spent $42 billion on acquisitions to still be No. 2 in software."
It makes for great drama, but you've really got to wonder why Ellison is going so all out here, in such an unbecoming way. Sun Tzu, Ellison's inspiration, says, "If your opponent is choleric of temperament, seek to irritate him." Perhaps that's what is driving this little display, though one could argue that Ellison is the choleric one in this particular scenario.
I'm told there's a lot of support for Apotheker inside HP. And sources say Ellison's critique of his performance at SAP is unfair. "Yes, Leo's press leaving SAP was awful, but he hit a buzz saw with the economy," said a source. "There's no reason for this negativity."
Perhaps not. In any event, as unpleasant as this all is, it does have some potential upside. The market's reaction to Apotheker's appointment and Ellison's quips about it could be a boon to HP's incoming CEO.
Because if he delivers, he might make HP investors even more money than he would have otherwise, thanks to Ellison and others driving the stock price down.
Yes, maybe Larry should have stopped at "I'm speechless."