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Think Oracle’s battle to acquire PeopleSoft was long and drawn out? The sale of an America’s Cup team to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was almost as stormy. Douglas Smith, a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, should know. He represented PeopleSoft during its 18-month hold-out battle. But prior to that, Smith acted as legal counsel in the sale of the AmericaOne sailing team to Ellison, and then went on to do legal work for the team now named BMW Oracle Racing. As it turned out, another party almost made a hostile takeover of the nonprofit AmericaOne before Ellison bought it. Smith says an attorney for cellular tycoon John McCaw attempted to stop the sale, claiming the team’s assets had not been first offered to McCaw. Because the team was a charity, California law required the assets be sold at the highest price and offered to anybody with a natural interest. After an internal investigation, Smith and his team’s board determined they had offered the team’s assets to McCaw’s lawyer. That lawyer, New Zealander Sean Reeves, who formerly worked for Team New Zealand, denied in a sworn affidavit that the offer had been made to him. But this big-fish tale didn’t end there. A year later, Smith says Reeves called a member of Oracle Racing, offering to sell designs of boats used by McCaw’s team, OneWorld, but the team member refused. Later, Reeves was sued by OneWorld in federal court in Washington state in connection with his attempt to sell the intellectual property. Smith said he stopped doing work for the Oracle team after some of his friends were fired by Ellison.

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