Oracle Makes a Change at CFO Level

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-04-26 Print this article Print

Co-president and former CFO Safra Catz returns to the job on a permanent basis to replace Jeff Epstein; Oracle gives no reason for the move.

Oracle made a major change in its corporate leadership team April 25, revealing that Chief Financial Officer Jeff Epstein resigned and has been replaced by his immediate supervisor, Co-president and former CFO Safra Catz.

Oracle offered no explanation for Epstein's leaving his job after two-and-a-half years.

Epstein handled the bulk of the huge corporation's financial dealings throughout the $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems, a deal that took nine months and a great deal of international red tape to close in January 2010.

During his tenure, Epstein had little or no interaction with investors or the press. For example, during quarterly earnings conference calls, Catz was the face of the company and delivered its profit forecasts.

In another example, Catz twice appeared in court during Oracle's intellectual-property trial against SAP in November 2010 to represent his company's financial interests. The $1.3 billion judgment against SAP was the largest dollar amount ever in a U.S. copyright-infringement award.

Since 2004, Catz has been shuffled around quite a bit, serving the software giant as president, co-president with Charles Phillips, and co-president with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd, who joined Oracle in September 2010.

Catz also has served on the Oracle board of directors since October 2001 and was the company's CFO while serving as president or co-president from 2005 to 2008.

Oracle Co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison said Catz's appointment was permanent and that she will maintain the title of president.

"Safra already has the long-standing confidence of our employees, our board and our shareholders," Ellison said. "There is no more logical choice for CFO."

Generally, analysts' reaction to the change was mild.

"It's safe to say that in IT companies that have a kind of 'rock star' mentality when it goes to their top executives, that the CFO will be the one who takes the stage at financial analysts' meetings and take the questions that require long division," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told eWEEK.

"When you have a company like Oracle, Microsoft, or others, the analysts' attention tends to go to the higher-ranking C-level executives. Safra Catz is a great choice; she's filled that role before. Before coming to Oracle, she was at an investment banking firm, so the necessary skills are certainly within her purview."

"The CFO role at Oracle is different from the CFO role at other companies. It's not as high profile," Jefferies & Co analyst Ross MacMillan told Reuters. "The company's presidents have decision-making authority in many areas that would typically fall under the CFO at a large corporation."

"It's not much of a surprise," Brad Zelnick of Macquarie Securities said. "Oracle has a very tough culture, even tougher when you have someone in the organization more senior who knows the job so well like Safra Catz."

Oracle did not say what Epstein would be doing next. He was only the third person to hold the CFO position since long-time CFO Jeff Henley left the post to become Oracle's chairman of the board.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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