Oracle accuses Autonomy CEO of bending the truth

A spat has blown up between Oracle and Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch over who is telling the truth about the controversial buy-out of the British firm by the maker of expensive printer ink HP.

If you believe Oracle, then Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch was running around trying to hawk his company to the highest bidder. Oracle was interested until it heard the $6 billion price tag and laughed.

Lynch then found HP’s Leo Apotheker much more amenable and managed to get him to agree to spend $11.7 billion dollars. At the time the price was considered too high, but no one knew that Lynch had been saying $6 billion to Oracle and had been turned down.

This is deeply embarrassing for both Lynch and Apothiker because it confirms HP paid nearly double what Oracle had said was too expensive for the outfit. It was doubly silly because the deal had been turned down by Mark Hurd, who was HP’s former CEO until he was asked to leave for having a date with a former soft porn star.

Apothiker’s enemies could quite rightly say, that the Automony deal would never have happened under Hurd.

Lynch was furious and denied ever  talking to his current buyer’s worst enema. Then he accused Oracle of “being inaccurate”. This is a polite way of saying “Oracle tells Porkies”. Lynch claimed that some banker must have tried to shop Autonomy to Oracle and it had nothing to do with him.

Oracle is not an outfit that will let a comment like that slide, and is keen to show the world+dog that if anyone was “being inaccurate” it was Lynch. It also was not going to be British and mince its words either.

According to a statement from Oracle: “Either Mr Lynch has a very poor memory or he’s lying.”

Oracle’s side of the story is that Lynch came to Oracle, along with his investment banker, Frank Quattrone, and met with Oracle’s head of M&A, Douglas Kehring and Oracle President Mark Hurd at 11 am on April 1, 2011.

Lynch gave Oracle a very nice PowerPoint slide sales pitch attempting to sell his company to Oracle. But Kehring and Hurd told Lynch that with a current market value of $6 billion, Autonomy was already extremely over-priced. He left his slides behind so Oracle still has them.

Today, Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch still insists that Oracle is being inaccurate but has apparently since remembered meeting with Hurd and Kehring.

But Lynch insists that it was a purely technical meeting and was just a ‘lively discussion of database technologies.’ The way he tells it, he was in San Francisco on one of his trips when Frank Quattrone offered to introduce him to Mark Hurd. Quattrone was not engaged by Autonomy and there was no process running. The company was not for sale. He remembers meeting with Hurd and “someone else I believe called Doug”.

He seems to be saying all this while Oracle has his slides, which is a little silly. The slides Lynch show Oracle’s Mark Hurd and Doug Kehring were all about Autonomy’s financial results, stock price history, price/earnings history and stock market valuation.

Sitting next to him was Silicon Valley’s most famous shopper of companies, the legendary investment banker Frank Quattrone.

Hurd and Kehring might be excused for thinking that they were expected to write a cheque at the end of the meeting.

To refresh Lynch’s memory, Oracle has stuck his PowerPoint slide sales-pitch up on the Oracle website.