The Business On... Leo Apotheker, Chief executive, Hewlett-Packard

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The Independent Online

Ah, that demmed, elusive Pimpernel

They seek him here, they seek him there... It is true that Silicon Valley has been having some fun guessing the whereabouts of Mr Apotheker since he took the reins at the world's largest computer manufacturer.

He is back at HP HQ now, though, right?

"Would you like a picture?" he asked analysts, when they quizzed him this week. But until closing arguments in the Oracle vs SAP court case, he had to stay safely out of the jurisdiction of the court, lest he be subpoenaed to appear. He used to run SAP, and Oracle says he knew about a little light theft by an SAP subsidiary company.

By 'a little light theft', do you mean $1.3bn worth?

That is what a jury has just decided should be the damages awarded to Oracle, whose software code was downloaded by its rival.

And HP says?

That Oracle only decided to call Mr Apotheker as a witness for the fun of it – and not until he was appointed to run HP in September. It is "harassment", it says. Oracle's founder, Larry Ellison, is having a good feud, and it has business overtones, since the two companies are moving into each other's territory.

That should make Mr Apotheker's job at HP a spicy one

It will, though at the moment the new CEO is travelling to HP offices around the world, in listening mode. After 20 years at SAP, a software company, he has a lot to learn about the hardware business. Sceptical investors pushed HP shares down when they heard about his appointment.

Ouch. But he's a smart guy?

And feisty, too. As a secondary school protest leader back in Germany in the Sixties, he had two teeth kicked out in a fracas with mounted police. He wanted cigarettes allowed at school. In the coming fight with Mr Ellison, he'll be wise to wear a gum shield.