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How Did Ellison-McNealy Affect Oracle-Sun?

Did The Personal Outweigh the Professional?

One question about the Oracle-Sun deal, not scandalous except perhaps in the eyes of IBM executives, concerns the personal relationship between Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy.

The deal, to me, shows how little power shareholders (ie, owners) of public companies really have in the face of personal relationships. I believe IBM was ready to pay a max of 9.40 per share for Sun, an offer that was vehemently castigated by Sun Chairman Scott McNealy, according to many reports.

Yet Oracle came swooping in to pay $9.50, after only four days of discussion. Of course, Sun shareholders are no doubt ecstatic about the deal, seeing their holdings quadruple from recent lows. Yet Sun's stock was hovering at about $10 before last fall's marketwide meltdown (after a 4-1 reverse split in late 2007).

What if IBM had run amok and offered an insane price like $12-13 a share for Sun? Would the market have killed IBM for this? Would Sun have been forced to accept it?

Assume that IBM had done this, with no ensuing bidding war. How does the few billion dollars premium compare to the revenue (and valuation) that IBM now risks losing against a fortified, fire-breathing Oracle? What if Oracle and HP now partner more closely? How much additional damage does this mean for IBM?

Back to my lead, back to the personal angle. McNealy and Ellison forged their apparent friendship from years of battling Microsoft. I remember self-described Libertarian McNealy testifying in front of Congress when Microsoft was in the cross-hairs of the US Justice Department, all but begging the Feds to dismantle The Borg.

The obvious business reason for the two companies to cooperate--most of Sun's server hardware is running Oracle and a large percentage of Oracle customers are on Sun--no doubt forms the basis of the relationship.


Yet, the personal angle still nags. As I noted in my previous post, John Dvorak was all over this story more than a year ago, with a column that at the time sounded paranoid but now looks to be spot-on:

http://bit.ly/15lYnG

McNealy was famous for his funny (if immature) jibes at Microsoft and IBM; I heard him once say that not only was Sun's approach superior to Redmond's but that "my kid is better-looking than his, too." Ouch.

Additionally, we're all aware of the seeming personal animus that drives Ellison in some of his deals, whether against competitor SAP or former competitor/subsumed Peoplesoft.

On a lighter note, one blogger, Marc Farley from 3Par, offered this hilarious custom-crafted video take on the process:

http://bit.ly/EkwHY

You know, satire is funny because it hits so close to the mark. Maybe Marc's video is all we need to know about this deal.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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