Larry Ellison channels Michael Corleone in HP’s $3 billion trial against Oracle

Remember near the end of “The Godfather” when Michael Corleone, as played by Al Pacino, settled all of the Corleone family’s accounts?

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Barzini was gunned down by a fake cop. Moe Green got shot in the eye. Several other bad guys were taken out in elevators, revolving doors and in their bedrooms. Tessio, played by the great Abe Vigoda, couldn’t get Tom Hagen to get him off the hook “for old time’s sake.” Even Paolo, Michael’s own brother-in-law, met his end courtesy of a garrote wire due to his lack of loyalty to the Corleone family.

(And if you still haven’t seen “The Godfather,” well…You really have no excuse.)

Michael liked to say none of it was personal. That it was all business. And on Wednesday, there was someone in a California Superior Court room who gave testimony that sounded, in tone at least, very similar to Michael Corleone.

That person was Larry Ellison.

The Oracle chairman took the stand in the $3 billion suit that Hewlett-Packard is fighting against Oracle over what Hewlett-Packard claims was Oracle’s efforts to kill off the Itanium semiconductor platform. Intel developed Itanium, and Hewlett-Packard banked on Oracle to provide software for Hewlett-Packard servers running on Itanium chips.


Just before Hewlett-Packard was set to start its 2011 shareholder meeting, Ellison, who at the time was Oracle’s chief executive, put out a press release saying that Oracle would no longer give its support to Itanium. Hewlett-Packard said Ellison’s decision caused so much damage to the growth of Itanium that it basically killed off the chip platform, and resulted in Hewlett-Packard wasting resources and losing out on so much business that it wants $3 billion from Oracle.

Ellison, however, tried to say that the move was nothing personal against Hewlett-Packard. According to Bloomberg, Ellison told the trial’s jury that he made the decision because of what he saw from Itanium’s creators at Intel.

“It was a business decision to stop investing in Itanium,” Ellison testified. “Because the maker of the chip, Intel, had stopped investing in Itanium.”

A judge in 2012 determined that, due to contract stipulations, Oracle was obligated to support Itanium by developing software for the chip platform. The jury in the case now is trying to determine if Oracle and Hewlett-Packard lived up to the terms of their agreement, and whether Oracle owes Hewlett-Packard any financial restitution.

Maybe it was just business for Oracle. But Hewlett-Packard must have taken Ellison’s decision personally, or else it wouldn’t be trying to get $3 billion out of Oracle’s cash stash. No matter how much money is involved, it’s hard to keep business from becoming personal. Plus the two companies have a history, what with Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd being HP’s former CEO and Ellison being extremely critical of HP’s ouster of Hurd.


Photo: Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison speaks in a keynote address during the 2012 Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco. (AP/Eric Risberg)


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  • Christopher R Weiss

    IBM didn’t support Itanium, Microsoft didn’t support Itanium, etc. Is HP going after all these other companies too? This is the greedy company who will be capping off tens of thousands of US employees. I hope they spend millions and get nothing.

    • Cheap & Nothing Wasted

      None of them promised to develop software for Itanium, so they can’t be sued.
      Oracle did promise software.

      • Christopher R Weiss

        HP negotiated in bad faith. They knew that Intel was going to end their involvement with Itanium, and they manipulated Oracle. They knew that Oracle never would have agreed to anything without Intel’s backing of Itanium.

        Microsoft dropped support in 2010. Red Hat dropped support in 2010. IBM dropped support for Itanium in 2005. Dell stopped producing Itanium servers in 2005. The message was loud and clear that HP would be the last man standing on the Itanium.

        The architecture was stupid. The double word approach required special compilers and optimizers. Standard code actually ran more slowly unless it was compiled appropriately. I advised customers in 2003-5 to stay away from it like the plague.

        Oracle did and has supported Itanium after losing in court in 2011. To claim that Oracle caused HP $3B in losses is absurd. The platform was doomed long before Oracle’s announcement.

  • carlzulauf

    The hook of this story is misleading. I am no fan of Ellison and it does appear Oracle is trying to weasel out of a contract, but I don’t see much in the quotes provided that sound like The Godfather.