September 22, 2014

Larry Ellison memories

Larry Ellison had an official job change, and will be CTO and Executive Chairman of Oracle — with the major product groups reporting to him — instead of CEO. I first met Larry 31 years ago, and hung out with him quite a bit at times. So this feels like time for a retrospective.

For starters, let me say:

Some anecdotes:

I didn’t realize until I made that list how many stories I have about Larry breaking promises.

*Larry is generally very good at apologies, perhaps because he’s had so much opportunity to practice them.

Of course, Larry’s habit of missing meeting schedules can be brutal on his employees. But that major annoyance aside, my general sense of his employee dealings has been they were tough-but-fair.* The only one of the many Oracle firings I didn’t understand at the time was that of hugely successful COO Ray Lane — and truth be told, Ray hasn’t come close to his Oracle level of success since. There have been some hirings I thought were doomed when they happened, but that’s a different matter — business judgment, not ethics. Of course, it helps in treating people fairly when your stock skyrockets and makes a whole lot of them rich.

*And when a complaint is made to the contrary, I tend to disbelieve the complaint, even the sexual-harassment ones.

Another group of stories that stick in my mind boil down to Larry delegating or not as the case may be.

Yet another group of stories focuses around aggression and relentless energy. Most remarkable to me were a couple of times when Larry described a sales manager’s particularly energetic aggression to me with admiration and glee. Some of that was around the famous “Cut off their oxygen” phrase, originally applied to competitor Ingres and later repurposed for other rivals. But then there was also the time I heard about a 2-on-2 basketball game, featuring Larry, sales (and marketing?) chief Mike Seashols, and Mike’s direct report Gary Kennedy. Apparently, Gary shoved Mike around quite a bit during the game, and Larry cited that as a strong foreshadowing that Gary would soon also shove Mike aside for his job. And it’s from Larry that I first heard the Genghis Khan quote to the effect that the greatest pleasure in life is to see your enemy utterly defeated.

Finally, I’ve heard a lot of stories about Larry Ellison and attractive women — and except for the employee-harassment tales, I believe them all. 🙂


4 Responses to “Larry Ellison memories”

  1. Shyam on September 22nd, 2014 10:52 am

    slight typo – the Larry
    I first met the Larry 31 years ago, and hung out with him quite a bit at times. So this feels like time for a retrospective.

  2. Curt Monash on September 22nd, 2014 10:26 pm

    Fixed. Thanks!

  3. daniel williams on January 28th, 2018 12:20 pm

    Who in 1984 thought Oracle would be bigger than MSA? Not one except Larry…and there you have it !

  4. on November 22nd, 2020 10:19 pm

    Software Memories — History of the software industry, its companies and its personalities

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