Ellison Marries Fiancee, Shakes Up Board

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2004-01-13 Print this article Print

UPDATE: Ellison gets hitched, Oracle's management gets shook: Who's up, who's down and what it all means, from our inside sources at the company.

Update: Less than 24 hours after writing this analysis, a tersely worded statement landed in my In box confirming that Larry Ellison had married his longtime fiancee, novelist Melanie Craft, shortly before Christmas. "We have no additional comment or detail," stated Oracle spokesperson Jennifer Glass, beyond the basic facts. The wedding apparently happened on Dec. 19, and Ellison and Craft spent their honeymoon yachting around the Caribbean.
The timing of the wedding announcement couldnt have been worse for Oracle, since it coincided with the management reshuffle I detail below. Some analysts will point to the wedding as even further proof, along with relinquishing the chairmans title, that Ellison plans to pull back from Oracle. I dont buy it. Larrys been married three times before, and its doubtful that this fourth wife will cause him to change his behavior much. For more details on what this all means, my analysis of the management shake-up follows.

Big news on Monday for Oracle followers: Founder, CEO and Chairman Larry Ellison gives up the chairman title and, for the first time since Ray Lane left, appoints a president. Not just one, but two! Read more about Oracles management moves. Uninformed observers might assume that this is the first sign that Ellison, approaching 60, is about to step away completely. And who could blame him—hes a world-class sailor, lives in an amazing Japanese palace in the Woodside hills and has left a strong legacy of Silicon Valley success. But walking away—even near the top—isnt the Ellison way. So whats really going on? I spent some time with my Oracle insiders and uncovered the real truth. Heres what happened, and why. Jeff Henley: Oracle CFO Jeff Henley, beloved by Wall Street, was promoted to chairman of the board, replacing Ellison. Sure, this means Ellisons stepping back a bit, but its really not that big of a deal. Henley wanted to spend more time with family, but investors were nervous about this adult influence leaving the company. Ellison and Henley were already members of Oracles five-person board. Shifting the chairman title to the 58-year-old Henley lets Oracle keep Henley around, at the same time promoting him and cutting back his responsibilities. Henley wont relinquish the CFO title until another is brought on—from outside the company. Wall Streets happy, Ellison fobs off some of the less interesting parts of his job, and Henley gets an "attaboy" for a job well-done. Safra Catz & Charles Phillips: These two are now co-presidents, reporting to Ellison, who remains CEO. Catz will continue to run global operations, while Phillips will run field operations, sales, marketing and consulting. Ellison hasnt found anyone yet he can trust with the reins of Oracle, but in these two, hes getting close. Katz has been a valuable lieutenant for the past five years, yet Phillips is a relative newcomer—joining Oracle from Morgan Stanley last May. Catz is already on the board, and now so too is Phillips. Although this looks like a win for both execs, the move is fraught with peril. Very few co-president roles have been successful, and my take is this one will be a cat fight to the end. Look for one of the two to take over sole ownership of the presidency within a year. Next page: What does it mean for Larry?

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including ExtremeTech.com, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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