Conway credits users

Sporting bulletproof vests, PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway and his pet pooch Abbey were taking no chances last month at his company’s annual user conference in Anaheim, Calif. in September.

“You may be wondering why we’re wearing vests,” Conway said to a crowd of about 11,000 users.

“Have you ever noticed how Larry Ellison always changes his mind? First he says he’s going to sell off our products and lay off our employees, and then he says he’s not. Then he says he’s going to shoot Abbey, and then he says he’s going to shoot me. We’ve decided that we’re not going to take any chances,” he joked.

These comments reference a war of words passed back and forth in July between Conway and Ellison, after Oracle Corp. attempted a hostile takeover of PeopleSoft – only days after it acquired J.D. Edwards Co.

Conway credited users with thwarting Oracle’s bid, saying that CEO Ellison’s attempt to disrupt PeopleSoft’s business could have worked, but because customers went ahead with planned purchases, business continued as usual, and the company exceeded its financial guidance for the second quarter of 2003.

The City of Calgary was put in the position of having to re-evaluate its intent to upgrade its PeopleSoft applications after hearing about Oracle’s plans.

“It came at the most inopportune moment,” said Gilles D. Champagne, manager of employee services, human resources at the city. “We owed it to ourselves to take a step back [and consider our options].”

Champagne said it took the city about two days to understand the issues, and after consulting extensively with analysts, and investment specialists it was back on track with PeopleSoft in only two weeks.

“We ultimately decided the risk was acceptable,” he explained. “Support for our HR application ended in March 2004 and we didn’t want to be on an unsupported platform.”

Champagne was also impressed with how Conway responded to Ellison’s comments, saying he appreciated the tongue-in-cheek nature of Conway’s remarks.

Keith Hillier, assistant deputy minister, corporate services at Veterans Affairs Canada in Charlottetown, P.E.I. was also initially concerned when Oracle threatened to take over PeopleSoft, but the Ministry went ahead with its investment.

“People have a huge investment in PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards worldwide, so it wouldn’t all go up in smoke,” he said. “We were cautious…but at the end of the day we didn’t have to think about it.”

However, users are not the only ones making light of Oracle’s bid. Analysts are also skeptical. Warren Shiau, software analyst at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said it doesn’t make sense for shareholders to sell their stocks for Oracle’s proposed price of US$19.50 per share. Now that PeopleSoft has initiated a US$350 million stock buyback program, shareholders could stand to make more money by selling to PeopleSoft, he said.