Saturday, February 13, 2016

Ellison's #oow13 no-show does matter...sort of

A little over two years ago, I wrote about a tempest in a teapot that disappeared rather quickly - the temporarily shocking fact that Larry Ellison skipped his second scheduled keynote at Oracle OpenWorld to hang out by the water. The reason? America's Cup.

Initially, the sky was falling. Larry doesn't care about his customers. This will permanently destroy Oracle.

A week later, it was forgotten. As I said at the time:

And if you're being honest, you'll admit that Ellison's no-show did NOT send a signal to the entire company. I don't think there's an Oracle sales rep who is now saying, "You know, I think I'll skip that meeting with the customer and go play golf instead."

And even in terms of corporate governance, Oracle wasn't impacted by Larry's "I'm on a boat" routine. I mean, the company has TWO presidents. Talk about built-in redundancy.

But now, over two years later, the real damage is appearing - not from Ellison's no-show, but from the fact that Oracle's name is associated with boating in the first place. You see, there was a recent case in court, and Oracle's corporate name featured prominently in the case.

The case, however, did not involve Oracle Corporation. It involved Oracle Racing, dba Oracle Team USA, a completely separate entity (which at one point had significant sponsorship from BMW).

It turns out that Matthew Charles Mitchell, a member of the team, believes that Oracle Racing's failure to fire Simeon Tienpoint for applying resin to the boat (which increased its weight) caused the America's Cup jury to unfairly target Mitchell. Or, as Mitchell's counsel argued:

Mitchell claimed "that the team's failure to suspend or fire Tienpont caused Mitchell to become a scapegoat in disciplinary proceedings before the America's Cup jury," (Judge) Chhabria wrote in his summary of the case. "In other words, Mitchell seems to believe that if the Oracle Team had suspended or fired Tienpont, the America's Cup jury would somehow have treated Mitchell differently during disciplinary proceedings. But according to the allegations in Mitchell's own complaint, as well as the exhibits he attaches to the complaint, the America's Cup jury was aware that Tienpont added resin to the kingpost. Therefore, the Oracle Team's alleged failure to suspend or fire Tienpont could not have caused Mitchell's alleged injury."

As it turns out, Judge Chhabria tossed the case out. But not before the name "Oracle" appeared in various publications, and creative headline writers got to write things such as "America's Cup Sailor's Suit Tossed Overboard."

And it's just as well the suit was tossed overboard. If Oracle Racing follows the color scheme of Oracle Corporation, those red sailor suits were probably painful to the eyes.
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