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PeopleSoft CEO: Oracle saga is over

Oracle may be pressing on with a quest to buy PeopleSoft, but PeopleSoft chief Craig Conway tells CNET that the bid is all but dead.

Oracle may be pressing on with a nearly three-month-old unfriendly quest to buy PeopleSoft, but to PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway, Oracle's bid is all but dead.

"I truly believe--and I'm not being a peacock and spreading my feathers--that the Oracle saga is over."

In an interview with CNET on Wednesday, Conway said Oracle's $7.25 billion tender offer for his company is no longer much of a concern to him. "I don't spend any time on it anymore," he said.

Initially, however, Oracle's "shock and awe campaign" to acquire PeopleSoft, launched June 6, had consumed the company, he said. Conway and his team rejected Oracle's offers and shifted into overdrive, filing a lawsuit against Oracle, enacting an antitakeover measure, spending weekends visiting customers and investors, and more. Conway says those moves have helped him gain the upper hand.

"You fast-forward to the end of July and all of August and look at our brand name awareness and at the adjectives used to describe the No. 2 competitor, and (Oracle's bid) is not wholly a bad thing," Conway said, claiming Oracle's brand has been damaged by the allegedly "predatory" acquisition bid.

"My life is pretty good right now," Conway said.

As far as Conway is concerned, Oracle lost steam in July, after PeopleSoft sealed its $1.8 billion purchase of J.D Edwards. Oracle had initially wished to stop that deal, which PeopleSoft had announced just days before Oracle's own bid. Another critical blow to Oracle, Conway said, was the fact that PeopleSoft announced strong second-quarter financial results, boosting investor confidence in the company. "In my mind, it was over in July," he said.

In addition, the Department of Justice has extended its antitrust review of the Oracle deal, causing Oracle to extend the PeopleSoft tender-offer period three times since June. "You can extend the offer every 30 days until the end of time," said Conway, and it won't faze him.

Conway said the next nail in the coffin of the Oracle bid will come Sept. 4, the day he and the rest of PeopleSoft management are scheduled to present their integration plan with J.D. Edwards to Wall Street. At that meeting in New York, PeopleSoft will discuss the financial merits of the merger, revenue and earnings guidance of the combined company, as well as the new product schedule and distribution model of the company, he said. "That's the point that people will walk out of that room and say, 'Man these guys have got a great plan,'" Conway said.

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A war of words and lawsuits.

That kind of sentiment is critical for PeopleSoft. If investors lose confidence in the plan and send PeopleSoft's stock down, Oracle's bid might start looking more attractive to them. Ellison is betting on just that scenario.

Despite Conway's claim that PeopleSoft has come out ahead on this one, the company is pressing ahead with its lawsuit against Oracle, which charges that its rival's bid was designed purely to disrupt its business. "When somebody tries to rob your bank, even if they don't succeed, I think you should still press charges," Conway.

PeopleSoft also disclosed this week that it has restarted a money-back guarantee program for customers, a tool it used in June to help ensure it met sales expectations in the quarter ended June 30. By starting that program again, PeopleSoft has signaled that Oracle's bid continues to make customers wary.

Conway said PeopleSoft has prevailed in its struggle with Oracle so far because of his company's high regard for customers. "Larry Ellison's play was consolidation at the expense of customers," he said.

"There is not a lot I respect about consolidating an industry at the expense of customers," Conway added. "To me, it's trying to corner a market."