Larry Ellison resigned on Thursday as CEO of Oracle after a 37 year stint as the head of the company that he founded in 1977. Ellison, 70, will be replaced by CEO Mark Hurd and CEO Safra Catz. Hurd will take responsibility for sales and marketing whereas Catz will run finance, legal and manufacturing. Meanwhile, Oracle’s Board of Directors elected Ellison Executive Chairman of the Board and CTO. Jeff Henley will serve as Vice Chairman of the Board after serving as Chairman for the last ten years. The reconfigured leadership structure preserves the triumvirate of Ellison, Hurd and Catz but creates an uncommon scenario whereby the company has two CEOs. Ellison leaves Oracle after leading the company to a staggering $185 billion valuation and acquiring a personal net worth of $51 billion as reported in Forbes. Given that software, hardware and engineering will continue to be under Ellison’s purview, the implications for Oracle’s cloud and big data strategy are likely to be minimal.
Oracle Board’s Presiding Director, Dr. Michael Boskin, commented on Ellison’s decision to step down as CEO as follows:
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. Safra and Mark are exceptional executives who have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to lead, manage and grow the company. The Directors are thrilled that the best senior executive team in the industry will continue to move the company forward into a bright future.
Ellison’s continued influence and responsibility over technology strategy suggests that the decision may well have been motivated by a desire to retain the talent of Safra and Hurd in order to pre-empt lateral moves they might have considered making in the industry. In 2008, Ellison famously compared cloud computing to a fad that would pass and termed it “complete gibberish,” claiming that the “computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-drive than women’s fashion.” Since then, however, Ellison has completely reversed his position and embraced a number of cloud-based acquisitions and product roll-outs. That said, Oracle still has the cash to make a major cloud infrastructure acquisition analogous to Cisco’s acquisition of Metacloud or HP’s purchase of Eucalyptus, although this is something we still might see given Oracle’s enviable cash position.