Billionaire tech pioneer Larry Ellison stepped down as chief executive on Thursday, ending one of the most profitable runs for a leader in business history.
Ellison has been Oracle’s only chief executive since he founded the company in 1977. Over 35 years Ellison, now 70, has built the company into one of the world’s largest database-software businesses and one of the biggest providers of business programs. On Thursday night it was valued at $182.7bn.
Born in New York City to an unwed Jewish mother, Ellison contracted pneumonia at the age of nine months and was given to an aunt and uncle for adoption. He did not meet his biological mother again until he was 48.
Another famous college dropout, he spent one term at the University of Chicago, encountered computers and swiftly moved to California. Ellison is seen as one of Silicon Valley’s premier visionary leaders, alongside fellow educational failures Apple’s Steve Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
The company said that Safra Catz and Mark Hurd, currently co-presidents, would be named joint CEOs to replace Ellison. The two have shared the deputy role since Hurd joined Oracle in 2010, after his exit from Hewlett Packard under a cloud of scandal.
Catz will boost her position as one of the most powerful, and best paid, women in Silicon Valley. She will remain chief financial officer and oversee legal and manufacturing operations. Hurd will run sales, marketing and strategy. Ellison will become chairman.
This year Forbes annual poll of billionaires estimated Ellison’s fortune at $51.4bn, making him the third richest man in the US and the fifth richest in the world. Larger than life and a spender on a massive scale the fiercely competitive sailor has splurged hundreds of millions in bids to win the America’s Cup and owns 98% of Hawaii’s Lanai Island. Ellison remains Oracle’s largest shareholder, holding 1.1bn shares, or 25%, of the company.
Catz, 52, had been seen as Ellison’s sole heir apparent before Hurd’s arrival. The Israeli-born executive joined Oracle in 1999 and became the president in 2004. She is reportedly one of the world’s highest paid women with a pay package worth $51.7m in 2011. She has been instrumental in many of the notoriously acquisitive company’s big deals including its $10.3bn takeover of PeopleSoft and the $7.4bn deal for Sun Microsystems. Low key, despite being one of the most senior women in tech, she also a lecturers in accounting at Stanford University’s graduate school of business.
Hurd, 57, joined Oracle as president in 2010 after an unseemly exit from Hewlett-Packard, where he was CEO for four years. Hurd, married with two children, left after an internal investigation found that irregularities in his expenses claims were used to cover up a “close personal relationship”.
HP’s shares had doubled in value during Hurd’s stewardship and Ellison lambasted the board in a letter to the New York Times accusing them of making “the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago”.
“Safra and Mark will now report to the Oracle Board rather than to me,” Ellison said in a news release. “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.”
This article was written by Dominic Rushe in New York, for theguardian.com on Thursday 18th September 2014 22.32 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010