Ellison Strikes Again

So Oracle made it official Wednesday, agreeing to juice up its original takeover bid for BEA Systems by about 14 percent to take down the last middleware elephant roaming the enterprise software landscape. Of course, the announcement came the same day that SAP’s top executives were in the Bay Area to discuss their own coup (the $6.7 billion acquisition of Business Objects closed earlier this week).

Coincidence or not, it was hard not to reflect back to the second week of October when SAP started the week off with its Business Objects bid only to have Oracle steal some of the limelight with its “friendly” hostile takeover of BEA by week’s end.

Fast-forward three months where it happened all over again.

Surely, if Larry Ellison and Oracle were willing to pay $8.5 billion (actually $7.2 billion when you factor in the $1.3 billion in cash BEA has on its balance sheet) there wasn’t any great need to make it official Wednesday. It’s not like BEA was going anywhere. Oracle could have waited a day, a week, maybe several months and had the tech media spotlight (such as it is) all to itself.

When I asked Henning Kagermann about the timing of Oracle’s BEA announcement, he took the high road saying “you should ask the other party. We are focusing on our deal.”

He said something else about executing but I had stopped typing to look him in the eye. He gave me something that could only be described as a knowing nod, a facial shrug of sorts that indicated that either A) he didn’t appreciate such an impolite question on SAP’s big day or B) he’d like to say something more colorful but didn’t want to stoop to Ellison’s level.

I’m inclined to believe the latter. These companies and their respective CEOs don’t much care for one another. The difference, at least publicly, is that Ellison (and other high-ranking Oracle execs) takes great joy in taunting SAP at every turn while SAP usually takes the high road.

Maybe that’s a more professional and admirable approach.

But Ellison’s a street fighter. With each passing day (Oracle made another small acquisition Wednesday), Oracle cuts a bit deeper into SAP’s lead in the biz app space. And while Oracle shares continue their steady ascent, SAP shares remain flat. Maybe it’s time for SAP to stop confusing civility with superiority and start swinging back– if only to show everyone that it not only cares but understands exactly what kind of enemy it’s dealing with.


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