Rest assured, fellow schadenfreude lovers, the standards for drama and excitement recently set by Larry Ellison will likely continue, albeit in a slightly less spectacular fashion. Here's my list of what's next for the headline writers, to be taken with a grain of salt and, for one or two of my suggestions, maybe a dose of something stronger as well.
Oracle Goes on Buying Spree, Offers Cash for Cap Gemini and Sun Microsystems. Actually, this isn't too far-fetched. Larry has said he wants to buy more companies, and these two would be a great fit for Oracle, though how high on the hostility index the deals would go is hard to judge. The Sun deal would probably come as a relief to many, Sun shareholders in particular.
Cap Gemini might be a little more problematic, and the European Union might stick its nose in the fray. Also expect the Department of Justice to consider another lame attempt at claiming monopoly infringement, at least until they figure they'd have to take on IBM as well.
Microsoft Goes for the Gusto and Buys Siebel. Still one of my favorites for both dramatic value and real market impact. This would actually scare the pants off of every software executive from Redwood Shores to Waldorf.
Siebel would give Microsoft a high-end sales force that actually understands how to do a global deal with a big company, and do it right. The mixture of the passive/aggressive Microsoft culture and the aggressive/aggressive Siebel culture could create a hybrid one hundred times scarier than a hive full of Africanized killer bees or a good dose of swine flu. The internal hostility index would actually be low on this one, however. Both companies could really use each other.
SAP Turns Tables, Buys Microsoft's Applications Business. To heck with the idea that Microsoft would buy SAP, the real deal would run in the opposite direction. Microsoft's been losing tons of money, prestige and executive hair over what is their second-smallest line of business. Bill and Steve are finding it's just no fun playing in a sandbox that has to be shared with some pretty big kids. So when the fun runs out, it'll be time to sell.
Of course, the sub-head to this deal would have to read: Department of Justice to Sue (again). Meanwhile, the hostility index might be relatively low. I'm guessing there are elements in both companies that would welcome such a move more than they'd actually like to admit.
IBM Buys Computer Associates in Fire Sale. It's sort of hard to imagine that CA still plugs away at the market. With its accounting practices being discredited, its former executives regularly heading for a day or two in court, if not worse, and fears that the trials will only make things even uglier, a CA buy-out by anyone would keep the headlines flowing for weeks.
Why IBM? At the right price, there must be something in the CA portfolio that IBM can add to its traveling integrator's toolkit. Hostility index? By definition pretty high, CA has a lot of takeover karma to expiate.
Computer Associates to Acquire BEA. Well, somebody has to buy poor BEA, so it might as well be CA, preferably before the "IBM buys CA" fantasy deal takes place. Hostility index? See above.
And, finally, my most unbelievable headline, but the one that would make the business page better than the sports and comics page combined for months to come:
Craig Conway In Hostile Bid for Oracle.
I have to admit it would be fun to watch.