The American software giant Oracle has become embroiled in an extraordinary public spat with its British blue-chip rival Autonomy, accusing its chief executive of telling "whoppers".
The feud between the Oracle chief executive, Larry Ellison, and Autonomy's Mike Lynch had been building since Mr Ellison said Cambridge-based Autonomy had attempted to "shop" itself to Oracle before sealing an $11.7bn (£7.5bn) takeover by Hewlett-Packard.
When Mr Lynch denied the claims, Oracle hit back, saying: "Either Mr Lynch has a very poor memory or he's lying." Mr Lynch had a few choice words of his own, saying Oracle's bitterness was "an attempt at diversion from their poor positioning" in Autonomy's specialism: unstructured data.
"Oracle seems a little confused about the sequence of events and origins of the data it has received," he added. "Something that would suggest it needs better management of and insight into the unstructured data on its internal systems. We would be delighted to help."
Late on Wednesday, Oracle blindsided the target of its wrath by creating a link on its website dubbed "please buy Autonomy". It posted several statements denouncing the software group and posted a slide presentation that Mr Lynch is alleged to have presented to Oracle's president, Mark Hurd, and its head of mergers and acquisitions, Doug Kehring, to encourage a bid.
"After listening to Mr Lynch's PowerPoint slide sales pitch to sell Autonomy to Oracle, Mr Hurd and Mr Kehring told Mr Lynch that with a current market value of $6bn, Autonomy was already extremely over-priced," Oracle said.
Mr Lynch denied "shopping" Autonomy in the meeting, saying it was limited to a "discussion of database technologies". "If some bank happened to come with us on a list, that is nothing to do with us," he said. His rival's soundbites had been "inaccurate", he added.
Frank Quattrone, the technology banker who advised Autonomy on its deal with HP, waded into the row yesterday, backing Mr Lynch. He said his firm had sent the slides independently, pitching Autonomy as an investment idea to Oracle in January before it had been hired by the UK group. "These slides were not used in our April meeting with Mark and Doug."
One source close to the row said: "Larry Ellison is well known for his combative style, and this could be related to his bad blood with HP." In the past Mr Ellison has attacked SAP and HP, especially its chief executive, Leo Apotheker. He has also fallen out with tech giants including Google and IBM.