Oracle Corp co-founder Larry Ellison is stepping aside as CEO after 37 years at the helm of the business software maker, ending a colorful reign marked by his flamboyant behavior and outlandish wealth amassed while building one of the world’s best-known technology companies.
With the changing of the guard announced on Thursday, Ellison will be handing over his job to his two top lieutenants, Safra Catz and Mark Hurd, who become co-CEOs.
Catz, 52, a former investment banker, joined Oracle in 1999. Hurd, 57, has been with Oracle for four years, but is best known as the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.
Ellison, 70, intends to still play an influential role at Oracle. He is taking over as executive chairman, replacing Jeff Henley in the position, and will oversee the engineering departments as chief technology officer.
Ellison remains Oracle’s biggest shareholder with a 25 percent stake in the company that accounts for most of his US$51 billion fortune.
Catz, Oracle’s chief financial officer until Thursday, will be responsible for manufacturing, legal and finance, while Hurd will supervise sales and all services.
Both of them will report to Oracle’s board instead of Ellison. Oracle is not hiring a CFO to replace Catz.
“I am going to continue to do what I have been doing the past several years and they are going to continue doing what they have been doing,” Ellison told analysts during a conference call on Thursday.
Oracle’s stock slipped US$0.86, or 2 percent, to US$40.69 in extended trading following the company’s announcement.
The downturn may have had more to do with Wall Street’s disappointment with Oracle’s fiscal first-quarter earnings, which were also announced late Thursday and missed analyst targets, than with the reshuffling of management.
“While there was some speculation that Larry could step down, the timing is a bit of a head-scratcher in our opinion and the Street will have many questions,” FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives said.
Although Ellison has steadfastly insisted that Oracle is well positioned to sell more cloud computing services, smaller rivals such as Salesforce.com Inc and Workday Inc have been growing at a much faster clip.
Both Salesforce, started by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff, and Workday, founded by longtime Oracle nemesis David Duffield, were created explicitly as cloud computing specialists.
In a post on his Twitter account, Benioff cast doubt about whether Ellison is really relinquishing any control. “There always has been, and always will be, one CEO at Oracle,” Benioff tweeted.
Since he co-founded Oracle with US$1,200 of his own money in 1977, Ellison has become as well-known for his antics away from the office as he is for his accomplishments as the company’s CEO.
Through the years, Ellison has driven fancy cars, flown his own jet, raced yachts, wooed beautiful women and owned ornate homes in San Francisco, Malibu and an exclusive Silicon Valley neighborhood, where he spent US$170 million on a 18.21 hectare compound designed to remind him of Japan and the samurai warriors that he admires.
In 2012, he bought his own Hawaiian island by acquiring 98 percent of Lanai.
Last year, Ellison staged the boating race for the America’s Cup in the San Francisco Bay, where a team of professional sailors that he personally financed won the trophy for the second straight time.
Ellison, a close friend of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, has always relished his status as the richest person in the nation’s high-tech heartland.
Money is “a method of keeping score,” Ellison once told an interviewer.
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