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!
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.