Top CEOs didn't get where they are today by reining in their egos, and one of the biggest - in both senses - has been beating his chest in public once more.
It's no secret that Oracle boss Larry Ellison has little affection for HP. The animosity was probably catalysed by one of its main hardware partners deciding to go big on software and services itself, with the acquisition of companies such as EDS. But it got personal when the HP board messed with Ellison's mate - Mark Hurd - last year.
Since then Ellison had taken Hurd on himself and wasted little time in laying into is replacement - Leo Apotheker. Now that he too is gone, the clearly bored Ellison has retrained his sights onto Mike Lynch - the CEO of UK database giant Autonomy, which HP is acquiring - in what seems to be a proxy attack on HP.
The point Ellison seems to be trying to hammer home is that HP is overpaying for Autonomy. The proof of this is a claimed meeting between Lynch and Hurd earlier this year at which Ellison claims Lynch tried to flog his company to Oracle, but failed because the $6 billion asking price was deemed too high. HP is paying almost twice that.
There then followed a public dispute between the two, which is neatly summarised in the graphic below, taken from a recent WSJ summary of the spat. Oracle has even issued a really mature press release entitled "Another Whopper from Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch", and has set up a dedicated website which hosts a presentation Oracle claims proves Lynch was trying to sell.
Autonomy recently briefed the Guardian on the matter, saying Oracle is trying to divert attention away from its own ignorance in the area of unstructured data - Autonomy's speciality. It concludes with this witty retort: "Oracle seems a little confused about the sequence of events and origins of the data it has received, something that would suggests [sic] it needs better management of and insight into the unstructured data on its internal systems. We would be delighted to help."
Just as we were thinking this is shaping up to be a juicy little cat-fight, we suddenly realised we didn't care. HP wants to compete with Oracle, Larry - get over it. If, in order to do so, it's over-paying for Autonomy then the only losers are HP's shareholders, who have little reason to be cheerful regardless.