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Oracle CEO changes — laying out the conspiracy theories

News this week that Larry Ellison was stepping down as CEO of Oracle rocked the industry. That juicy tidbit came out Thursday afternoon as Oracle disclosed first quarter earnings but as the earnings call unfolded, the story evolved into a Larry-stepping-up-and-over to become executive chairman and CTO. The new co-CEOs Safra Catz and Mark Hurd report to that board which he oversees. Soooo, what does that mean?

Talking to a raft of [company]Oracle[/company] watchers since Thursday a couple theories have arisen. And, just to make this crystal clear, this is entirely, 100 percent speculation.

Here are four theories:

  • 1: Oracle’s board grew a spine and decided it was time for Ellison to give up the CEO slot after 37 years. The company has posted several less-than-stellar quarters and critics say Oracle’s Oracle mis-read the cloud computing revolution and probably made a mistake in getting Oracle into the hardware business via its 5-year-old $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems. The new executive chairman and CTO titles are just window dressing.
  • 2: The most cynical take is that Ellison is setting up a bake-off between Catz and Hurd as to who becomes his true successor.  If one or both succeeds wildly he will be credited for graciously ceding the top spot. If one or both fail, he has someone else to blame and could engineer a Steve Jobsian rescue mission to save Oracle with whatever he and Oracle’s product teams have cooked up in the mean time.
  • 3: Ellison’s taken note of all the good that former arch-rival [company]Microsoft[/company] Co-Founder Bill Gates is doing with the Gates Foundation and at 70 worries about his own legacy outside of relational databases and being a tycoon. Perhaps in his new role he will take on more outside work other than defending the America’s Cup. Focusing on the most elitist sport in the universe when the rest of the world is in dire straits may not be the way he will want to be remembered.


  • 4: The news is what was stated: That Catz & Hurd have been acting as CEOs anyway — with Catz handling finance and regulatory issues and Hurd dealing with sales and execution, so it was time they got the actual title and the credit for doing so. And, Ellison will continue to work with Thomas Kurian, EVP of product development;  John Fowler, EVP of systems; and Ed Screven, chief corporate architect (and open source guy); to come up with the next great thing, with a particular emphasis on cloud.


Facebook’s open-source point man on how open-source can be done better

James Pearce, who heads up open-source efforts at [company]Facebook[/company], talks about how the new TODO project aims to make sure that open-source projects get managed and maintained well after they launch instead of just being thrown over the proverbial wall.

Facebook, James PearceHis segment starts half way through. In the first half of the show Derrick Harris and I talk about a really busy week in cloud with [company]Rackspace[/company] taking itself off the block, and Cisco buying Metacloud in yet another OpenStack move.  Which only proves our point that if you don’t like the cloud situation now, give it a minute, it’ll change.



Hosts: Barb Darrow and Derrick Harris

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8 Responses to “Oracle CEO changes — laying out the conspiracy theories”

  1. There is conspiracy theory #5:
    He is spending time with Kurien, fowler and Ed Screven (who I think is the longer term CEO) to see which one of them will be the eventual CEO. I don’t think the keys will be handed to Safra or Mark.

  2. question the timing. why announce on day of reporting earnings than on some other slow news day? my guess they’re deflecting some other worse news that would have tanked their stock.
    here’s a free tip larry. take all the h/w, s/w, storage assets you’ve assimilated and build something of value like Cisco UCS instead of fighting on size.

  3. clearvalue2

    I think it may be simpler . Believe it or not, Ellison is 70 and may just have gotten to the point where he’s accomplished everything he wants at Oracle and now is going to turn his attention to something new we haven’t hear much about. A guy like him is probably mad that Musk, Bezos and Branson get to go to space, and he’s sitting at his desk in San Mateo. He probably want to be the first man on mars and probably has some reasonable shot at it.