Oracle saga is over, says PeopleSoft's Conway

Although PeopleSoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Craig Conway has been downplaying Oracle's continuing efforts to acquire his company, he addressed the issue straight away Monday at PeopleSoft's Connect user conference, arriving for his opening keynote with a bulletproof vest, his dog Abbey and a quip about the ever-changing nature of Oracle's plans should its hostile takeover bid succeed.

An opening video montage summarized PeopleSoft news highlights from the last several months, including Conway's sound bite that Oracle's bid is like someone asking to buy your dog so he can take it out back and shoot it, and Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison's reply, that if he had a gun and a bullet, he wouldn't be aiming for Conway's dog. Conway seized on that line to kick off his speech.

"Have you noticed how often Larry Ellison changes his mind?" Conway said. "First, they're going to cancel all our products, then they're not. Then they're going to fire all our employees, then they're not. He's going to shoot the dog, then he's going to shoot me. So, Abbey and I have decided not to take any chances," he said, indicating his bulletproof vest and the black Labrador's matching one.

Conway focused most of his speech on a discussion of PeopleSoft's recent accomplishments and plans for integrating J.D. Edwards & Co., but he returned at the end of his remarks to the subject of Oracle. Oracle's real goal with its bid is not to buy PeopleSoft but to disrupt it, a tactic that hasn't worked thanks to the eagerness of PeopleSoft's customers to rally to the company's defense, he said.

"Oracle failed in its approach because of you," Conway said. "The saga is over."

Oracle said last week it remains committed to its US$7.3 billion tender offer to PeopleSoft's shareholders to acquire the company. The proposed deal is currently under review by regulatory bodies in the U.S. and Europe, a process Oracle says it expects to conclude in November.

During the portion of his speech not devoted to Oracle, Conway earned a round of applause when he announced new extensions to PeopleSoft's customer support policy. Customers paying maintenance fees will now have at no additional cost access to upgrade scripts easing migration to PeopleSoft's most current release for five years, rather than four, and will receive updates covering tax and regulatory changes for six years.

One attendee at the keynote said the announcement of the support changes is welcome news.

"Whenever they extend the support for nothing, you've got to like that," said Mike Rothgery, a senior manager of human resources applications for Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.

But the real highlight of the keynote was Conway's discussion of the Oracle bid, Rothgery said. Cap Gemini isn't "in a climate of fear" over the prospect of Oracle taking over PeopleSoft, but it has watched the unfolding drama with trepidation, he said.

U.S. Department of Defense human resources officer Rose Patten also said she came to the keynote primarily to hear Conway's thoughts on the status of the Oracle bid.

"Like everyone else, I wanted to hear what he would say," she said. "It seemed like he's pretty assured. He knows what direction he wants the company to go."

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