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British tech magnate Mike Lynch acquitted of fraud charges in $11 billion deal with Hewlett Packard

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By MICHAEL LIEDTKE | AP Technology Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Mike Lynch, once hailed as Britain’s king of technology, has been cleared of charges alleging he orchestrated a fraud and conspiracy leading up to an $11 billion deal that turned into a costly albatross for Silicon Valley pioneer Hewlett Packard.

The not-guilty verdicts reached Thursday by a federal court jury in San Francisco followed an 11-week criminal trial that delved into the history of HP’s 2011 acquisition of Autonomy, a business software that Lynch founded and then oversaw as CEO in Britain. HP at first celebrated the purchase as a huge coup that would propel the Palo Alto, California, company down a promising new path, but then quickly came to regret under its then-CEO Meg Whitman.

The jury acquitted Lynch on all 15 felony counts facing him. Toward the end of the trial, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer threw out a count of securities fraud included in the U.S. Justice Department case against him in an indictment dating back to 2018. It took years to extradite Lynch from the U.K. and then more legal wrangling before the trial finally began in mid-March.

Lynch, 58, had been free on $100 million bail. Being accused of a massive fraud represented a dramatic turn in fortune for an entrepreneur once described as the Bill Gates of Britain — a title he seemed to live up to when he negotiated the Autonomy sale that generated a more than $800 million windfall for him.

The acquittal vindicates Lynch, who spent years fiercely denying he did anything wrong, while painting HP as a technological train wreck. It’s yet another setback for HP, which had spent years blaming Lynch for duping the company into a deal that deepened its troubles and stained a legacy dating back to the company’s 1939 inception in a Silicon Valley garage.

In a statement, Lynch said he was elated with the verdict and thanked the jury for poring over the facts in the complex case.

“I am looking forward to returning to the UK and getting back to what I love most: my family and innovating in my field,” Lynch said.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another former Autonomy finance executive, Stephen Chamberlain, faced fraud charges alongside Lynch during the complex trial. The same jury acquitted Chamberlain, too.

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