Schwartz: Sun to 'operate independently' until deal is done

With closure months away, will Oracle CEO Larry Ellison stay on the sidelines until then?

Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO Jonathan Schwartz called it "one of the toughest e-mails I've ever had to write" when he told Sun's employees that Oracle was buying the company.

"I do not consider the announcement to be the end of the road, not by any stretch of the imagination," Schwartz wrote. "I believe this is the first step down a different path, one that takes us and our innovations to an even broader market, one that ensures the ubiquitous role we play in the world around us."

Sent out to employees on Monday, Schwartz's e-mail was published today in The Wall Street Journal. A Sun representative confirmed that it is authentic.

The e-mail doesn't hint at the fate of Sun's technology or it employees under Oracle. But he does promise to continue Sun as a separate company, "operating independently" until Oracle's acquisition is completed.

Sun is still planning to roll out new technologies, but whether it can operate free of Oracle's and CEO Larry Ellison's influence over the next few months before the deal is closed is another matter.

Don't count on Ellison to be hands off, said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Inc. "I would expect Larry's hand to be pretty heavy on the tiller."

King said he imagines Oracle will be "offering guidance on places that they might be able to work together closely."

But Ellison will have to avoid attempting to dominate the firm in ways that make either Sun employees or partners uncomfortable, King said. "Sun clearly is a company that prizes its independence and, frankly, I don't know how some people at Sun will respond to be a nonautonomous division at Oracle."

Schwartz's e-mail reads in the same conversational tone he adopted for his blog, which he has been writing since 2004. Sun encouraged employees to blog as well, creating a community for them and a live feed engine that displays recent posts.

Shortly after the announcement, one employee offered some reaction to the Oracle deal in his blog, Mousebits: Bart Muijzer's Blog. It began with a disclaimer that the opinion was entirely his. He wrote: "Is it a Good Thing or Bad Thing to work for Oracle? I don't know, honestly. When I joined Sun almost 10 years ago, I choose to work for Sun, not Oracle. Since then, I've come to really, really love Sun. Sun is deeply in my system. My blood is purple, so to speak. I love the things we innovated. I love the kind of people who're working at Sun: open-minded, gentle, bright, stubborn, convinced of what we do is right."

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Patrick Thibodeau

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