Larry Ellison to step down as CEO of Oracle and become chairman and CTO

19 Sep 2014

Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle

Oracle founder Larry Ellison is stepping down from the role of CEO of the business software giant. Mark Hurd and Safra Catz will share the CEO role while Ellison will become executive chairman and CTO of Oracle.

Both Catz and Hurd are currently co-presidents of Oracle. As co-CEO, Hurd will focus on sales, marketing and strategy at Oracle while Catz will remain CFO and will run legal and manufacturing operations.

“Larry has made it very clear that he wants to keep working full time and focus his energy on product engineering, technology development and strategy,” said the Oracle board’s presiding director, Dr Michael Boskin.

“Safra and Mark are exceptional executives who have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to lead, manage and grow the company.”

Ellison’s decision to step down from the CEO role ends one of the most profitable runs of leadership in the history of business and technology.

Named by Forbes this year as the third wealthiest man in America and the fifth wealthiest person in the world with a fortune of US$52bn Ellison is something of an enigma in the technology world.

Born in New York in 1944, he was adopted by his aunt and uncle at the age of nine months and did not meet his birth mother again until he was 48.

Like most notable tech CEOs Ellison was a college drop-out and happened upon computing at the age of 22.

After stints at Amdahl and Ampex, Ellison began working on a relational database project for the CIA which he named Oracle.

He founded Software Development Laboratories in 1977 with US$1,200 of his savings. The company officially became Oracle in 1982.

After overcoming a business crisis in 1990 over sales orders and defeating rivals Informix and Sybase by the mid-90s Oracle went on to enjoy a long period of growth.

A colourful figure who enjoys sailing and flying military jets, Ellison was a close friend of Apple co-founder the late Steve Jobs and he sat on the board of Apple from Jobs’ return in 1997 to 2002, resigning due to time commitments.

Oracle went on something of an acquisition spree, acquiring ERP giant PeopleSoft as well as Siebel, BEA and Sun Microsystems, which gave Oracle control of the popular MySQL open source database technology.

A keen tech investor Ellison owns stakes in, NetSuite, Quark Biotechnology and Astex Pharmaceuticals.

“Safra and Mark will now report to the Oracle Board rather than to me,” said Larry Ellison.

“All the other reporting relationships will remain unchanged. The three of us have been working well together for the last several years, and we plan to continue working together for the foreseeable future. Keeping this management team in place has always been a top priority of mine.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years