Oracle Makes a Change at CFO Level

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change in its corporate leadership team April 25, revealing that Chief Financial Officer Jeff Epstein resigned and has been replaced by his immediate supervisor, Co-president and former CFO Safra Catz.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

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...