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October 4, 2011

HP closes controversial Autonomy deal

CEO Mike Lynch to remain in charge of UK software firm

By CBR Staff Writer

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has completed the $12bn (£7.8bn) acquisition of UK software firm Autonomy.

Autonomy will operate as a separate business unit, with CEO Mike Lynch remaining in charge.

HP’s former CEO Leo Apotheker had initiated the deal and was criticised for the high price. Last month, the HP board fired Apotheker and replaced him with board member Meg Whitman, triggering fears whether the Autonomy deal will be completed or not.

However, Whitman announced, almost immediately after her appointment, that strategies implemented by her predecessor will continue. Former eBay CEO Whitman had added that Autonomy was integral to HP’s software expansion.

The deal has raised a controversy after a spat between Autonomy’s Lynch and HP’s rival Oracle last week.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison called the purchase price "absurdly high."

Oracle released two statements on its website that suggest an April meeting with Autonomy was used by the UK firm – subsequently bought by HP – to sell itself to Oracle. "Autonomy was shopped to us. We looked at the price and thought it was absurdly high," Ellison said.

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Autonomy’s subsequent denials that it was shopping itself were met with a strongly-worded statement from Oracle.

"Either Mr. Lynch has a very poor memory or he’s lying.’Some bank’ did not just happen to come to Oracle with Autonomy ‘on a list.’ The truth is that Mr. 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," a statement read.

Autonomy responded, saying "Last week in response to a question about unstructured information Oracle made some less-than-enlightened comments on the subject, which Autonomy has been pointing out in the press."

The statement continued, "Now, as an attempt at diversion from their poor positioning, Oracle has raised the issue of whether Autonomy was "shopped by its management team" to them. In April 2011, there was a meeting for approximately thirty or forty minutes between Autonomy and Mark Hurd, which was set up by Frank Quattrone as an introduction to Mark Hurd. Oracle is an Autonomy customer.

"It was made clear that Autonomy was not for sale and no sale process was under way. Mr. Quattrone’s company was not engaged by Autonomy at that time. There has been no other contact with Oracle since then.

"It may well be that investment banks were independently recommending Autonomy as an acquisition target to industry players – that is standard practice – but this would not have been at our behest. Qatalyst have informed us that the slides Oracle has recently posted on its website were prepared and sent independently by Qatalyst to Oracle on 26 January (the content is clearly from January).

"This is the first time we have seen them. Autonomy was not involved in this nor was Qatalyst engaged by Autonomy until mid-year. Autonomy did not present these slides in the meeting.

"Oracle seems a little confused about the sequence of events and origins of the data it has received, something that would suggest it needs better management of and insight into the unstructured data on its internal systems. We would be delighted to help."

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