A shock announcement from Oracle yesterday that Larry Ellison will be stepping aside as CEO to a new position as CTO, with Safra Catz and Mark Hurd stepping into the new co-CEO roles. BUT, Larry was also named executive chairman of the board – so Larry will report to Mark and Safra who report to the board of which Larry is chair.
As a former Oracle employee, Larry’s presence always loomed large at the company in a way that Safra or Charles Philips did not (I pre-dated Mark). I’ve always respected the guy because I admire someone who grew up poor as the child of a single mother and had the vision and tenacity to grow such a huge company from nothing. I have never met him face to face, but people I know who have reported that he is very, very sharp technically and had a grasp of detail even when he was running this behemoth of a company.
Mark Hurd, on the other hand, is almost universally described as a spreadsheet-driven bean counter and was widely loathed at HP when he was there. A friend of mine was in an HP office in London when the news came via email that Hurd had resigned and described the celebration and joy that greeted that news. I don’t know much about Safra Catz other than she is seen to be efficient and somewhat scary (although there may be some sexism colouring that viewpoint).
Over a few beers with friends earlier in the year, we came up with the idea that Oracle would merge with Salesforce at some point and put Marc Benioff in the CEO seat of the combined company. I see more charismatic leadership style from Marc than from Safra or Mark – but maybe the latter will grow into their roles as Tim Cook has at Apple. And there’s still time for Oracle and SFDC to merge – seems like almost everyone at SFDC used to work at Oracle anyway.
FWIW – here is what Marc Benioff had to say: