The first few paras from my column in tomorrow’s National Post on the the Oracle antitrust decision:
Game on! A U.S. District Court has ruled against the U.S. Department of Justice in its antitrust case against Oracle. The decision will set loose other such deals – and perhaps cause an overdue rethink of technology antitrust.
It is a spat, and Larry Ellison started it. Back in April 2003 the founder and Chairman of database vendor Oracle said that we were at “the end of Silicon Valley as we know it”. He told a group of newspaper editors that romanticized notions of the technology industry and its garage-centric capacity to renew itself were just that, romantic, and the business’s best days were already past. It was time, he argued, to shrink the software business.
In what can only seem a coincidence to the blissfully naive, almost exactly two months later Mr. Ellison announced a hostile US$5.1-billion takeover offer for PeopleSoft, an Oracle competitor. Hey, Mr. Ellison’s rationale must have been, if the industry is going to consolidate anyway, why let others have all the fun?
PeopleSoft CEO (and Ellison arch-enemy) Craig Conway saw things less cheerily. Mr. Conway almost immediately accused Mr. Ellison of engaging in unserious gamesmanship, of announcing an impossible takeover largely for the purpose of damaging a competitor by convincing PeopleSoft customers to hold off buying products. (Mr. Ellison helped that theory along, of course, by hinting that his company would only support (not augment) PeopleSoft products in a post-acquisition world.)
On a person-cum-professional level, the two former co-workers have a long history of feuding. Mr. Ellison once memorably remarked, “I think at one point, ‘Craigey’ thought I was going to shoot his dog. If Craigey and Bear were standing next to each other and I had one bullet, trust me, it wouldn’t be for the dog.”