back to article Controversial American bigwig in London... no, not Trump: HPE ex-CEO Meg Whitman to give Autonomy trial evidence

Meg Whitman will enter the High Court’s witness box today to give evidence about HP’s controversial purchase and $8.8bn writedown of Mike Lynch’s British software firm Autonomy. As the CEO who sacked Lynch from HP after the ill-fated acquisition, and an HP board member in the run-up to the Autonomy deal, Whitman is likely to …

  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Surely country music borders on cruel and unusual punishment?

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      It's not unusual.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Not for Tom Jones

      2. Commswonk Silver badge

        It's not unusual.

        Brilliant. Could almost be a song title in its own right.

    2. Chozo

      Borders on the cruel & unusual? No maybe about it.

      Listen in quiet horror as Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, and Bill Oddie croon about dogs in pain and chickens hit by a train

      https://youtu.be/O6B9ZdVFGck?t=94

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        They missed a few things like "mom", "prison", "pickup trucks", "alcohol", and "guns".

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "[..] without these hardware sales, Autonomy would have been worth a lot less [..]"

    Um, given an $8.8 billion writedown, I would think that that is pretty much official already.

    This is where we are going to be witness to the ugly side of upper management - the way they really are when not parading for PR or trying to impress.

    Don't forget to bring the popcorn, but you might want to take an umbrella as well so as to avoid most of the stuff that will undoubtedly be flying in all directions.

  3. DavCrav Silver badge

    "When the acquisition closed, Dr Lynch went from being the near-absolute leader of a mid-sized company to being one of many officers in one of the largest technology companies in the world. Dr Lynch struggled to work with his peers on an equal footing and to recognize that practices which might work fine in a company with less than US$1bn in sales simply would not work in a company with over US$127bn in annual revenue."

    What does any of that have to do with the actual trial, which is, I think at least, about Lynch's activities before the buyout?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It certainly demonstrates the animosity between Lynch and the new regime under Whitman.

      I'm not sure that necessarily helps HP's position - HP appear to have been fully aware of the steaming pile they'd just paid a lot of money for very quickly after writing the cheque.

      I'm also amused at HP repeatedly going on about the Autonomy's hardware reselling practices - I don't think it helps HP's case to say they were surprised Autonomy were doing it when HP's cunning plan appeared to rely on selling hardware with Autonomy software on it. Maybe something they could have checked during due diligence?

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Maybe something they could have checked during due diligence?

        I'm waiting (with popcorn in hand) for "due diligence" failures to come out. Autonomy may have conned them, but HP also conned themselves., willingly, I might add. For a con at any level to succeed, both the con artist and the victim are needed and the victim has to be willing.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      The rough opposite translation of course is that HP killed Autonomy with their bureaucracy. There are many other acquisitions that meet this pattern (hello MS *cough*), far more likely that a naff boss, though neither are mutually exclusive.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        There are many other acquisitions that meet this pattern

        I've seen two in my career, not at all pleasant. Fortunately I was in a position to bail out fast in both cases.

  4. Alan Johnson

    "When the acquisition closed, Dr Lynch went from being the near-absolute leader of a mid-sized company to being one of many officers in one of the largest technology companies in the world. Dr Lynch struggled to work with his peers on an equal footing and to recognize that practices which might work fine in a company with less than US$1bn in sales simply would not work in a company with over US$127bn in annual revenue."

    Quite possibly true but utterly irrelevant. HPs case that having hardware sale as a small proportion of overall sales amounts to fraud seems threadbare and borderline ridiculous. They should concentrate on showing that Autonomy deliberately and signifiantly mis-represented the state of the business.

    1. Killfalcon Silver badge

      I think most of the second half of the article is irrelevant. Lynch's defence to being accused of fraud is "Whitman was a bad manager after the sale", which, again, is nothing to do with the sale itself.

      Both sides probably have their lawyers swearing under their breath, here. Sometimes clients just want to rant in a courtroom, even if it's not going to help their case, and... they're paying the bills. So the lawyer just has to let them if they won't listen.

      (source: several of my friends are Lawyers, and they moan about clients the way we techies moan about... well, our clients...)

      1. x-IBMer

        Lawyers have friends?!?!

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          other Lawyers usually :D

          (Looks nervously around for the missus, she's the exception honest guvnor)

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Lawyers have friends?

          Do persons of negotiable affection count?

          If so then yes.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I think most of the second half of the article is irrelevant. Lynch's defence to being accused of fraud is "Whitman was a bad manager after the sale", which, again, is nothing to do with the sale itself."

        Lynch's defence is HP's post-acquisition decisions hurt Autonomy revenues and that resulted in a significant portion of the write down. If he can suggest (I don't think he will be able to prove it) that Meg and the board had decided that Autonomy needed to be written off ASAP so that everything could be hung on Leo and Autonomy fraud, it puts a lot of pressure on HP to demonstrate the extent of the fraud vs the writedown.

        The way HP's witnesses are shaping up, Lynch declining to go on the stand to avoid looking "as bad as the other side" might actually go in his favour. Although it would really hurt popcorn sales...

  5. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Devil

    For its part, HPE accuses Lynch of having an “authoritarian management style which served to generate division rather than cohesion.” On top of this, it also called him “domineering and uncollaborative,”

    Coming from HPE management (along with "Just for good measure, HPE also claims that as time went on, Lynch became “less and less focused and grounded in reality,”) this is rich.

    Ahhhh Autonomy the gift that keeps on giving (and generating returns for popcorn manufacturers at least)

    1. pig

      "Just for good measure, HPE also claims that as time went on, Lynch became “less and less focused and grounded in reality,"

      Sounds like he was nearly perfect material for a HP Chief Exec, except he must have remained a bit too grounded in reality for their liking.

      Is it just me though or does most of the evidence HP have brought work against them?

      This is a most odd case.

      1. aks Bronze badge

        I'm soooo glad this case is being held in the UK where there's a chance of a rational outcome.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I hope you meant that sarcastically, otherwise I may have bad news..

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Did HP ever get what Autonomy is Really All About? Methinks Not. That's an Epic Corporate Fail

    Dr Lynch struggled to work with his peers on an equal footing and to recognize that practices which might work fine in a company with less than US$1bn in sales simply would not work in a company with over US$127bn in annual revenue..... Meg Whitman

    Yes they do. Dr Lynch realised that and was let go to have another Go? And with a Helluva Lot More in the Way of World Weary Friends Attending to Alien Missions, would All Kinds of Fortune Easily Satisfy Just Rewards with a Constant Stream of Immaculate Awards.

    Now that, in any language, is an Almighty Prize to Avail Oneself of ..... and with Cloaks to Don in Order to Perform Live Virtual Instructions Remotely, ...... well, an initial difficulty to set aside for others to follow, is not to accept and realise IT a Heavenly Gift.

    Can you Imagine what Heavenly IT Gifts Do?

    Take the easy route :-) ... Imagine anything else.

    The Paths Get Real Rocky Here On In ...... Be Warned and/or Made Aware, as All Future Programs are Deadly Enabled, Take Care. Weak and Faint Hearts Elsewhere please .... it is for Your Own Good.

    1. Cliff Thorburn Bronze badge

      Re: Did HP ever get what Autonomy is Really All About? Methinks Not. That's an Epic Corporate Fail

      “The Paths Get Real Rocky Here On In ...... Be Warned and/or Made Aware, as All Future Programs are Deadly Enabled, Take Care. Weak and Faint Hearts Elsewhere please .... it is for Your Own Good.”

      Why do the paths have to get real Rocky from here?, has not enough drama, distress, duress and destruction already been carried out in this not so great game thus far?

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Did HP ever get what Autonomy is Really All About? Methinks Not. That's an Epic Corporate Fail

        Why do the paths have to get real Rocky from here?, has not enough drama, distress, duress and destruction already been carried out in this not so great game thus far? ..... Cliff Thorburn

        Thus to ensure only a truly worthy have Access to Absolute Command and Remote Control with the Almighty Secret of Source, ITs Ever Resourceful Driver for Mighty Mountain Climbers/AIMaster Pilots, CT?

        Almighty Info/Alien Intel Signing In and Signing On to Server Most Probably a Helluva Lot More than was Ever Anticipated.

        Would we then be talking of a New Knowledge ........ ? Greater Understanding ......?

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Did HP ever get what Autonomy is Really All About? Methinks Not. That's an Epic Corporate Fail

        Why do the paths have to get real Rocky from here?

        Because it gives you the chance to sing (very loudly and very badly) the main theme from "The eye of the tiger".

    2. aks Bronze badge

      Re: Did HP ever get what Autonomy is Really All About? Methinks Not. That's an Epic Corporate Fail

      Sorry, I don't speak Martian.

  7. Nick Kew

    Aha, there was me wondering why this story seemed to have gone quiet.

    Not sure how relevant any of this is, but some of the story rings sadly true. My own experience of working in the UK IT industry (not Autonomy) has been of some very bad and unpleasant management. The US companies I've worked for (not HP - but including one US company that is owned by a UK company) have been much better. If Lynch was typical of UK management then the remarks about him being impossible ring rather true.

    Not that any of that affects the figures available to HP when they overpaid (or to Oracle when they called it absurdly overpriced at half what HP paid).

    1. Vometia Munro

      I dunno. Having worked for both, both were dreadful. Though I admit that the US managers at least augmented their dreadfulness with some attempts to motivate their staff occasionally whereas the UK types were at best indifferent. IT management, tho'. It's never exactly been a meeting of minds.

      Ugh, still reminded of my oft-repeated anecdote of one of a gaggle of DEC managers leaning over my shoulder in the unhelpfully open-plan office they mandated to talk about me rather than to me, and overhearing them (it was hard not to) bragging about how they were so awesome they needed to know nothing about the industry they were managing. This was in the mid '90s. Everyone knows how well that ended.

  8. Stephen McLaughlin

    Sticking with the Country theme..

    Mike Lynch put lipstick on his pig and took it to the county fair.

    Liking what she saw, Meg Whitman purchased the pig.

    Then later, when the lipstick wore off, Meg was unhappy with the pig.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sticking with the Country theme..

      "Mike Lynch put lipstick on his pig and took it to the county fair."

      Liking what she saw, Leo, Meg and their friends gave all of the shareholders money money to Leo who went and quickly purchased the pig before any big, bad wolves came along.

      Leo got to kiss the pig first, and he liked it. Unfortunately, Leo rubbed all the lipstick off and no one liked Leo or the pig any more. While Leo stared at the pig, Meg pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the back.

      FTFY...

    2. son of sam

      Re: Sticking with the Country theme..

      This is so simple and brilliant. I just three sentences you have described the entire fiasco. I love it.

  9. Chris G Silver badge

    Popcorn! Popcorn!

    Made from real corns, only a dollar, and at this price I'm cuttin' me own throat. Eat while you enjoy watching a rare public assasination where the assassins kill themselves.

    1. Ima Ballsy
      Coat

      Re: Popcorn! Popcorn!

      John Wick Chapter 4 ......

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Popcorn! Popcorn!

        That could have been more entertaining, actually, locking the whole lot in a glass and mirror place with lots of guns and knives lying around.

        However, I wonder how much Autonomy would have been worth in John Wick coins, but we'll never know now Lynch is excommunicado :)

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Popcorn! Popcorn!

      rare public assasination where the assassins kill themselves

      Splitters!

      (I never thought that, one day, Monty Pyton would be more realistic than Real Life(TM))

  10. Nick London
    Coat

    Caveat Emptor Buyer Beware

    Whatever became of Caveat Emptor.

    HP did not need to buy Autonomy. They chose to do so. For 11 Billion Bucks surely they could have developed their own Program.

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