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December 15, 2004: Not exactly holiday cheer

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Ever since news that the proxy bid seemed to have actually worked, I – and a lot of others, I am sure – have been obsessively checking the news for word on whether or not the hostile takeover would succeed. Yesterday, all of our fears were realized. After 18 months of fighting and nastiness, Oracle has won. They will be purchasing Peoplesoft. Damn.

In case any long term readers had not already figured it out, the Big Fish I worked for several years ago was Peoplesoft. And believe me when I say that I harbor no love for Peoplesoft in this whole thing. They swallowed up my previous company and made huge promises that they would not lay people off and that they would not shut down a number of aspects of our software, and that they would continue to support the original customers. And then once the ink was dry on the papers and no one was listening to the Little Fish’s concerns because no one cared, they broke every single promise. At Little Fish, we consultants had at least been treated like people and not just numbered money making machines. At Peoplesoft, however, we all got a rather nasty dose of big company culture. It was made quite obvious to all of us that they did not give a damn about us, unless we were bringing in money. I – and a lot of others – got out the fastest way we could. Yes, we took huge and painful pay cuts and some of us had to move, and it was hard, but we were the lucky ones. Others stayed – familial or other obligations meant that they could not afford to take such drastic drops in salary. Some of those who stayed are my friends, and I have worried about them, each of them, the entire time, even as I thanked whatever deity or higher power might be responsible for at least letting me escape.

So now Peoplesoft finds themselves on the opposite side of the fence. Our merger (with Little Fish) was at least pleasant and mutual. The one with Oracle is not. But the board of directors is not motivated by what is good for their employees and their company – they are motivated by money. Despite the fact that Oracle’s very own rabid dog spokesperson (Larry Ellison - that loving, caring person that he is completely incapable of being) came right out in the beginning and said that the sole reason for the purchase is to put Peoplesoft out of business, and screw all the people he would be laying off in the process, the board of directors suddenly got it into their heads that gosh, maybe Oracle cares about the little guy after all and will treat all their people nicely (maybe even as ‘nicely’ as they treated the employees of every smaller company they swallowed). It was just a coincidence that this happened once Oracle upped their offer one final time and all the board members will go home fat, rich, and happy. Oracle can make all the promises it wants about supporting existing customers and continuing to develop existing software and trying to avoid layoffs. When the ink is dry on the papers and the tech world no longer gives a damn about the fact that this takeover was hostile, Oracle is going to be able to do whatever it wants, and I firmly believe that Ellison will get his nasty little way.

I know that this sort of thing is the very heart of capitalism. But it does not make it any easier to watch and accept. There’s a lot of good people who are going to have a pretty huge axe hanging over their heads for the next few months, and I hope that one of these days, the board members who make decisions like these - who screw over so many people who deserve better – get a triple helping of karma (or at the very least, a horrible full-body rash that itches worse than anything they could ever imagine, and lasts as long as possible). A lot of people are going to be hurt because of this. But why should Oracle care. And really, while I wish that I could just smirk about how turnabout is fair play, after what Peoplesoft did to us, it’s hard to hold onto determined vindication when people I know are in the way.

This has been a Holidailies entry.

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