|By Maureen O'Gara||
|December 4, 2009 12:45 PM EST||
We hear - well, you know how people talk - that Oracle has been quietly meeting with the European Commission and is now expecting it to take - what with the Christmas break and all - until April or May to get clearance for its acquisition of Sun Microsystems.
That would be a year to 13 months after Oracle agreed to buy the joint.
It took Oracle longer to get its hands on PeopleSoft, a crusade that took from June of 2003 to January of 2005 plus a federal judge throwing out the Justice Department's antitrust objections.
However, PeopleSoft wasn't bleeding from its jugular the way Sun is.
And that's not only sales dropping like an anchor but demoralized Sun staff fleeing too.
Oracle reportedly had a short list of Sun people it really wanted to keep. One source close to Sun says the delay in closing the deal has cost Oracle half the 10 people it really really wanted to retain. A source close to Oracle claims it's lost 70% of the 30 people it really really wanted.
Anyway, the rumored new timetable suggests that the European Commission's decision on the MySQL holdup could fall to the EC's prospective new antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia, who's not expected to take office until round about the first of February provided he gets his union card stamped by all the right parties.
Hearings on his appointment are scheduled for the last week in January.
Whether Almunia getting the job has anything to do with Oracle asking for more time to answer the EC's statement of objections is unclear. It could ask for more time still ensuring that it's his decision.
If all goes well, he will replace Europe's current antitrust czarina Neelie Kroes, who has dunned two of America's largest and most influential companies a small fortune during her term in office. She was a candidate for reappointment to what is considered a plum portfolio but didn't get the job again.
Her supporters say a second term would have been unusual.
Described as "extraordinary, prickly, focused, like hugging barbed wire," she came to power five years ago on a thin private-sector resume and has been overcompensating ever since for fear she would be seen as weak.
Almunia, 61, is a low-profile Spanish socialist political appointee who is currently Europe's economic affairs commissioner. An economist by trade he was an unsuccessful candidate for prime minister of Spain back in 2000.
The position that Kroes has struck over Oracle-Sun could create a historic Euro-American divide, ripping the scab off the nasty cut inflicted on relations when the EC blocked the GE-Honeywell merger a few years ago.
So far this time though the DOJ and more than half the United States Senate have objected to the EC's opposition to Oracle + Sun.
If it falls to him, Almunia may have to decide how far he wants to push that and whether he wants to oppose, as Kroes has, the $7.4 billion Oracle-Sun merger over the piddling $25 million-a-year Sun open source property MySQL, ostensibly sacrificing thousands of Sun jobs on both sides of the pond in a futile attempt at political one-upmanship of America's dominant software industry using as a foil an entity that's no longer European.
Europe has figured for some time that open source could be the stick that fouls up the machinery of U.S. software supremacy.
eWeek, however, says Kroes will hang around as a consultant and that nothing much will change with Almunia's apotheosis despite Oracle's stalwart resolve not to spin MySQL off.
Kroes was expected to leave Brussels entirely but will now become head of the European Union's "digital agenda." The job will give her oversight of the European Network and Information Security Agenda (Enisa) and the Information Society Directorate General, which puts her in position to influence online access to content and the digital economy.
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