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Talk about whiplash. Oracle stunned the tech world and beyond with news, announced in advance of its first quarter earnings call on Thursday, that Larry Ellison is no longer CEO and those duties will be now be shared by lieutenants Safra Catz and Mark Hurd (insert herding cats joke here.)
Ellison, after 37 years at the helm of the company he co-founded, is now executive chairman and CTO. Jeff Henley, who has been chairman for 10 years, is now vice chairman.
But the power triumvirate — Ellison, Catz and Hurd — spent a good part of the subsequent call talking about just how little things have changed.
“There is no change. I don’t mean no significant changes, but no changes whatever,” Catz said. She will continue to oversee finance and regulatory matters although she will no longer have the CFO title. And Hurd will continue to — um — ride herd on sales and execution. “I want to stay close to the action, not get farther away,” Hurd said.
And given that Ellison controls more than a quarter of [company]Oracle[/company] shares worth more than $40 billion, it’s pretty clear who’s really in still in charge.
Ellison also said he will continue to do what he has been doing which is working with Thomas Kurian, John Fowler and others on the technology side. Although, the knock on Ellison for the past few years is that he has not been spending that much time on the business. This is a man with hobbies, including World Cup yacht racing, and other diversions. He famously skipped an Oracle OpenWorld keynote last year in order to attend a race.
The one reporting structure change is that Hurd and Catz now report to the board, of which Ellison is now executive chairman.
And, in response to a smarmy analyst suggestion that Ellison would be missed on the earnings call, Ellison shot back: “You should be so lucky. I’m staying on the calls.”
Somewhat lost in all of this was the fact that Oracle missed its targets for the quarter, reporting earnings-per-share of $0.62 on revenue of $8.6 billion, up slightly from the year-ago period when it reported $0.59 EPS on revenue of $8.37 billion. But analyst estimates as compiled by Thomson Reuters had been for $0.64 EPS on $8.78 billion for the just-closed quarter.
Other than the title changes, things were pretty pro forma on the conference call. Ellison got in a bunch of digs at [company]Workday[/company], the human resources SaaS company founded by PeopleSoft refugees. (Oracle bought Peoplesoft in an exceedingly unfriendly deal a few years back.) Then he eventually got around to [company]SAP[/company], one of his perennial targets and which, oh by the way, just dropped a cool $8 billion to buy [company]Concur[/company], a SaaS based expense reporting services. SAP, he said, is moving nothing to cloud “except Tibco which runs on Oracle,” he said. I’m sure SAP would dispute that characterization.
Ellison also got in his usual plug for the upcoming Oracle OpenWorld extravaganza at which he said the company will roll out its promised database cloud service. “Existing customers can migrate to the Oracle Cloud with the push of a button that gives them automatic data compression of 10:1 and encrypts their data for secure transfer to the cloud. With the push of a button your application becomes a multi-tenant application and goes to the cloud.”