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What's up with that?

The high life, with Larry Ellison...Yahoos in the White House...Everyone gets on Steve's case.

Prime time Larry

Larry Ellison hasn't met a microphone he didn't like--most of the time, that is. Speaking into a CBS mike is cool. But speaking into court microphones is something he could do without. The new year has just begun, and the flamboyant one is already raking in the headlines. If it's not a story about his email escapades with a former girlfriend, then it's a chief rival taking his company to court and dubbing it "sleazy."

But first his turn in the (positive) spotlight. The Oracle chief is slated to make an appearance on prime-time TV this Wednesday at 9 p.m. PT. CBS will air a one-hour report chronicling the rags-to-riches saga of the industry's "other billionaire." The $6 billion man, now 52 years old, has had an undeniably interesting journey to the top: he began his working as a code warrior for such companies as Ampex and Amdahl.

Larry Ellison

Then there's publicity of a different kind. Ellison was in court recently matching wits with lawyers in a case of a relationship gone extremely sour. And the email exchanges between Larry and the woman he was dating in the early '90s provide a revealing glimpse into the life of the industry?s reigning playboy.

The woman, who was then employed at Oracle, once emailed Larry asking him to buy her an Acura NSX sports car instead of a watch. His response? "Of course, I will buy you an Acura NSX and anything else you want--a house in Woodside [an affluent community south of San Francisco], a Gulf Stream jet, a Hope Diamond, even the General Electric Corporation, which is quite expensive, and even dinner on Friday."

She may have gotten the dinner but not the car (or any of the other items on the shopping list). But we do know this: Larry did indulge himself--he proceeded to buy not one but four of the Acuras, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Larry and his company also have to deal with more pedestrian issues like the suit brought by database rival Informix this week. Informix alleges that Oracle stole trade secrets when it hired away several key engineers; its CEO Phil White has labeled Larry's company "sleazy and unethical."

Yahoo meets Bubba

Evidently, Bill Clinton likes to keep his Silicon Valley connections close by. During his first State of the Union address he had John Sculley seated right next to the First Lady. We don't know if it will be Gil Amelio or anyone else from the industry this time. But--eat your heart out, Barbra Streisand--his people invited the boys from Yahoo for the inaugural gala.

Jerry Yang

Yahoo was part of Presidential Inauguration Committee's "An American Journey" festival and was featured at the Technology Playground that had "community" as its theme.

Cofounder Jerry Yang had this to say about the honor: "Yahoo is dedicated to promoting global community awareness through communication and information access among users around the world."

No word on whether the chief Yahoo got to meet the commander in chief.

AOL: Can't we all just get along?

Steve Case hasn't had much to celebrate of late. The embattled head of America Online has been defending his company on several fronts--from class-action suits over poor service to a mother suing over child porn on his site.

Steve Case

Last week he issued an apology to all his 8 million members for not being able to log on. He said he felt their pain and would do everything possible to make them happy again. Everything, that is, except for giving them their money back. Appearing on CNBC yesterday, Case said he was not considering subscriber refunds as an option.

Case and AOL were in a different frame of mind earlier in the month. They were celebrating the conviction of Nicholas "Happy Hardcore" Ryan. The company issued a press release applauding the fact that this Yale University student was finally nabbed for passing out code that allowed people to log on to AOL for free.

"We hope this conviction sends a message to our members that AOL is dedicated to stopping hackers and their activities on the service and creating a safe and enjoyable online experience," said Tatiana Gau, newly appointed to the newly created post of vice president for integrity assurance at AOL.

Lately, of course, experience among many users has been anything but "enjoyable."