Larry Ellison’s Long Goodbye

Larry Ellison’s Long Goodbye

Wesley MurchisonFriday,26 September 2014

The Snap:

Larry Ellison is stepping down as the CEO of Oracle Corporation. The 70-year-old cofounder, however, isn’t retiring but staying on as CTO and chairman of the board. He will continue to oversee engineering functions and overall strategy. The CEO position is being split between co-presidents Mark Hurd and Safra Catz. Hurd will manage day-to-day operations along with the sales, services and the business unit. Catz, formerly both president and CFO, will continue to run the legal and financial sections of the company.

Hurd and Catz will now report directly to the board and all technology departments will report to Ellison. The news comes as Oracle has experienced a slowdown in growth over the last decade. And the company is in midst of a pivot to cloud computing.

The Download:

Even if Ellison’s stepping aside, rather than down, is cosmetic, the implications are huge. Along with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, Larry Ellison belongs to a generation of innovative entrepreneurs that got their start in the 70s, became household names in 80s and industry titans in the 90s. Forbes rates Ellison as the fifth-richest person in the world and third-richest in the United States. His estimated worth is roughly $50 billion.

However, while Jobs and Gates are famously associated with the rise of the personal computer, Ellison’s contribution is obfuscated by Oracles’ focus on the business market. This year, Oracle was ranked the second largest software vendor, passing IBM and coming in behind Microsoft. According to GIGAOM, Oracle’s software revenue came in at $29.7 billion, compared to IBM’s $29.1 billion for the fiscal year 2013.

Oracle started out as a relational database software company in 1977. Originally, the company was named Software Development Laboratories when launched by Ellison with cofounders Bob Miner and Ed Oates. They changed the name to Relational Software Inc. in 1979 when they released Oracle Version 2 before switching to Oracle in 1982. In the early days, Ellison calmed he wanted to beat IBM in providing database technology to businesses. Today Oracle provides tools for databases developed for enterprise resource planning software and customer relationship software.

Oracle didn’t become a part of everyday computer life for most users until the company’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2010, the developer of the Java platform and OpenOffice office suite.

In the last decade, much like Microsoft, Oracle failed to foresee to the rise of the Internet. Ellison’s strategy, however, has been to buy potential competitors before they grew too big or buy companies to help him transition to cloud computing. Oracle has already bought seven companies this year. Businesses like cloud-based big data platform BlueKai and the visual collaboration technology from LiveLOOK offers a glimpse of Ellison’s long-term strategy.

By all appearances the shuffle at Oracle is superficial, much of the functions won’t change among the three-headed executive team. However, it is an indication that Ellison won’t be around forever and when he finally retires, along with Steve Jobs passing and Bill Gates more ceremonial role at Microsoft, it will be the end of an era in computer technology.

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Hat Tips:

Recode.net, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, GIGAOM, Wikipedia, Image Credit: Flickr



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