SAN JOSE — They've battled in the marketplace, the courtrooms and the open seas. And now they have their company's nameson the two biggest indoor arenas in the Bay Area.
But Hasso Plattner, co-founder of SAP and majority owner of the Sharks, dismissed the notion that the fact Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has his company's name on the Oakland home of the Golden State Warriors was a factor in the Tuesday re-christening of HP Pavilion as the SAP Center.
"No, I wouldn't say that," Plattner responded after earlier making a thinly disguised reference to his business software rival by noting he preferred the name SAP Center to "the so-and-so arena . . . There are some nice company names around here, not all are so friendly toward SAP."
Plattner noted the name change grew out of a conversation he had with Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, whose company was looking to cut expenses.
Under its contract with the city that was set to expire in 2015, HP paid $3.25 million for the naming rights with the money divided evenly between the city and the hockey team. Under a new contract approved by the city last month, SAP will pay $3.35 million annually for the next five years -- also equally divided between the same parties.
With about half of SAP's 3,500 Silicon Valley employees looking on from the arena's lower bowl, mayor Chuck Reed and other city officials talked about the impact the arena has had on downtown San Jose and what changes may be part of the new agreement with the German-based business software giant.
And Plattner made it clear that although the building opened two decades ago, he doesn't see it being replaced anytime soon.
"This is an unbelievable arena here. Look how good it looks and it's 20 years old," Plattner said. "It looks it opened last year. It's like brand new. Everything is fresh, everything works."
For now, improvements on tap are technology driven so that fans will be able to access everything from real-time news alerts to video sharing on social networks even faster than they can now. Paper tickets may no longer be necessary and mobile devices could be used to purchase concessions.
In addition, the Sharks are evaluating new SAP scouting software designed to break down player statistics and analytics to give management a new way of assessing player productivity.
Plattner's connection to hockey goes back to his days as a boy in Germany, where he followed the Soviet Union in international play. He became a Sharks fan the first year he arrived in Silicon Valley when he discovered two former Soviet stars, Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov, were playing for San Jose.
But Plattner's primary athletic competition in recent years has been in sailing and that only added to his business rivalry with Ellison. Still, when asked about the problems that the America's Cup has been having in San Francisco under Ellison's watch, the Sharks owner was restrained.
"I watched it actually on Sunday. It looks great, but it's a little bit uneventful to see one boat sailing around," Plattner said, a reference to the fact the Swedish entry is not ready yet after the accident that claimed one life, and the Italian entry protested rule changes put in effect after that accident. "That was a tragedy what happened and now some want to change the rules for more safety and the other ones cannot cope with that because they cannot develop fast enough."
He noted that 12 boats were originally expected to challenge Ellison and Oracle for the America's Cup this summer, but the field was narrowed even before the accident by the decision to compete in 42-foot catamarans.
"Too expensive. Too much optimism using that amount of technology, but great-looking boats," Plattner said. "At least we will have a final between two great competitors, but some of the hopes the city had -- the camera had to find the spectators on Sunday."
Plattner prefers to deflect any questions about his hockey team to General Manager Doug Wilson or COO John Tortora, but he did say Tuesday that he liked the decision to sign Logan Couture to a long-term deal.
"That was absolutely paramount. Logan is the center of our franchise in the future," Plattner said. "He's a great player and a great personality, a real leader. He's a two-way player and I'm very glad Doug could sign him for a long, long period."
Plattner became the voice of the Sharks ownership group in January when he purchased the shares held by Kevin Compton and Stratton Sclavos. Since then, he has bought the smaller stakes held by three of the other members of the group that bought the team in 2002.
He added that while the team is still struggling financially, "the fans should not suffer. We want to give them a good show. We still want to win the cup. Our top players are getting a year older every year, but they're still very competitive. We had a good run in the playoffs. Let's see what we can do next year."
Arena officials are aware that the pronunciation of SAP Center could be an issue for a while. It's the S-A-P Center, with each letter spoken in full. It doesn't rhyme with gap or trap.
"There's going to be an education process over the next few months or years to get people in tune that it is SAP," said Jim Sparaco, the arena's director of public relations and fan development. "But that will happen. It's just a matter of repetition -- people hearing that it is SAP will get them to use it properly."