Page Two

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

Larry Ellison: So what does it mean for Larry? Even though he owns more than a quarter of the company, he now appears to have a boss—in Henley—for the first time. But since Henley has been on the board, and the board members are still mostly loyal to Larry, thats not such a big deal. This move is more about keeping Henley, Catz and Phillips happy than anything else. But it also signals a shift for Ellison. Although it appears to be Ellisons first step toward irrelevancy and retirement, my sources say thats just not so. The programmer who built Oracle has realized—much as Bill Gates did a few years ago—that all that corporate stuff really isnt much fun. The real challenge, for the technically savvy, is to continue to build "insanely great" products year after year (to borrow a phrase from Ellison pal Steve Jobs). Ellison hears the siren song of software development, and thats what makes him really happy. Forget investor relations, HR policy, Sarbanes Oxley and the like. Larrys earned the right to go back to the lab, and thats just where hell be. It looks like, at least for the next few years, Larry will be just as engaged. But on building new products, combating open source and expanding the technology—instead of focusing on 10-Qs, the SEC and Californias Office of IT.
Losers: Along with Henley, Phillips and Katz, Oracle has two other key senior VPs: Sergio Giacoletto, who runs Europe, Middle East and Africa; and Keith Block, who runs North American sales and consulting. With Phillips leapfrogging the two—gaining the co-presidency and jumping onto the board—my reading of the tea leaves indicates that these two execs have fallen out of favor. Whether its a minor dust-up or if both will be leaving Oracle shortly remains to be seen.
In the end, this is about three things. First, it shows that Larrys gotten over the wrenching breakup with Ray Lane and is finally ready to trust someone else in the presidential role. But by selecting two co-presidents its clear hes just dating and not ready to commit. Secondly, Oracle had to figure out some way to keep Henley on—hes the one guy Wall Street can really trust, and has since 1991. Chairman of the board is perfect, with a reduced schedule, yet vast influence. And lastly, it does appear Larrys giving up control—in the same way Gates turned Microsofts reins over to Steve Ballmer. At 59, hes finally starting to feel comfortable with his role as a technologist. And for Oracle, thats a good thing. With Larry as chief architect, and a strong supporting cast of business leaders around him, Oracle might just beat back its newest set of challengers—including worldwide leaders like SAP, and upstarts like OpenSQL and PostgreSQL too.

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, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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