There is a classic moment in a Seinfeld episode called “The Watch” where George has “negotiated” with a network biggie to give Jerry and George a deal for their proposed “show about nothing”. The trouble is, the deal that George has negotiated is lower than the deal that George turned down a few days earlier.
As you might imagine, Jerry has a view on this inverted style of negotiating:
JERRY: So what’d we get?
GEORGE: (big smile) Eight thousand dollars.
GEORGE: (quietly) That’s uh, for the two of us.
HELEN: Four thousand apiece?
JERRY: Lemme see if I understand this. In other words, you held out for… less money.
GEORGE: I was wrong, you were right.
JERRY: You know, the basic idea of negotiation, as I understand it, is to get your price to go… up.
GEORGE: You’re smart, I’m dumb.
JERRY: You know, this is how they negotiate in the bizarro world.
Apparently Larry Ellison likes following a similarly topsy-turvy approach to negotiating. With PeopleSoft on the ropes, and with Ellison’s $21 a share bid looking increasingly compelling, there is much chatter that Ellison is going to up his bid slightly and do the deal.
But no-one has told Larry that that’s the way to close negotiations off. Here is his comment in court today:
While there have been talks about raising the price, Ellison said, there have been “more discussions about lowering the price than raising the price.”