Oracle's Ellison vows to prove new HP CEO was in on software theft

Larry Ellison alleges that Leo Apotheker, formerly at SAP and now at HP, oversaw a scheme to steal large amounts of Oracle software

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison on Tuesday vowed to prove that new Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker was in on a scheme to steal large amounts of Oracle software, when Apotheker was CEO of software maker SAP.

"A major portion of this theft occurred while Mr. Apotheker was CEO of SAP," Ellison alleged in a statement issued by Oracle.

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He said Oracle will offer evidence that Apotheker was involved when the trial starts next Monday in a federal court in Oakland, California.

Ellison also suggested HP keep Apotheker away from HP headquarters so he cannot be subpoenaed to testify at trial.

"I don't think Ray Lane wants to risk Leo Apotheker testifying under oath as to why he allowed the theft of Oracle property to continue for 8 months after he was made sole CEO of SAP," he said. Lane is non-executive chairman of the board at HP and was formerly president and COO of Oracle.

In a rebuttal, HP said Oracle declined to question Apotheker when it had the opportunity to do so during his sworn deposition over the SAP matter in October of 2008, and did not include him as a trial witness until he was named CEO of HP.

"Given Leo's limited knowledge of and role in the matter, Oracle's last-minute effort to require him to appear live at trial is no more than an effort to harass him and interfere with his duties and responsibilities as HP's CEO," HP said in an emailed statement.

Oracle is seeking billions of dollars in damages in the case. It has accused SAP and its TomorrowNow subsidiary of stealing thousands of bits of software, including big fixes and patches, as well as other support material from Oracle in order to provide reduced-price maintenance service for Oracle customers.

SAP has admitted to illegal downloads from an Oracle website and the trial is expected to focus on how much the German software maker should pay Oracle in damages.

SAP has maintained that Apotheker and other top executives did not know about the illegal downloads initially and then moved to stop them once they discovered the problem. Oracle has maintained that SAP executives knew about the issue for years.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.