The stepping down of Larry Ellison as the CEO of Oracle is the end of an era, to a degree, of the old-school computer business.

Elliot Markowitz

September 19, 2014

3 Min Read
Ellison’s Departure Signals End of an Era, Dawn of New IT Age

If Paul Simon wrote technology jingles, instead of singing, “Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio?" he may have sung, “Where have you gone Larry Ellison?” Or, “Where have you gone Steve Jobs?” or Bill Gates, or Steve Ballmer, or Scott McNealy, or Andy Grove, or Charles Wang, or Philippe Kahn, or Jim Manzi …

Big names, bigger personalities. The stepping down of Ellison as the CEO of Oracle is the end of an era, to a degree, of the old-school computer business—a transition that has been going on for some time. A business that, to a certain extent, was just as well-known by the people who led it as it was by the actual products themselves. Folks like these sometime made more news individually than the goods and services they created.

It wouldn’t be uncommon to read stories of Jobs vs. Gates, or Ellison vs. Gates, or Manzi vs. Kahn, or Wang vs. everyone else. Ellison was there during the heyday of Silicon Valley in the mid-1980s, the crash in 2000 as the Internet bubble burst and the subsequent recovery. However, the rebound has left Oracle behind, as never was really able to make the necessary adjustments in the new era of Zuckerbergs, cloud computing and mobile device explosion.

For its last quarter, Oracle missed Wall Street's quarterly revenue estimate, reporting a 2.7 percent sales gain for the three months ended Aug. 31 and its earnings slipped 1 percent. The company has missed analyst revenue expectations for six of the last eight quarters. So change was sorely needed.

To be official, Ellison said he is stepping down as CEO, handing the position over to Mark Hurd and Safra Catz. He will instead become chief technology officer and board executive chair. In a year from now he won’t even be that.

I won’t get into this strategy of duo CEOs in this space today but the move is odd. It’s not going to work. “No one can serve two masters.” Expect more executive turmoil in the months, years to come. The structure is set up to fail.

But I digress, back to Ellison. Ellison’s big persona defined what it meant to lead a technology company 20 years ago. His Oracle Team USA took silver in the 2013 America’s Cup with a multi-million yacht. You would hear about him getting in trouble for trying to fly his military plane at low altitudes or too fast.

He flaunted his billions and his personality. He bought the island of Lanai, the BNP Paribas tennis tournament and a 500-foot yacht. The size of your yacht was a reflection of your success at that time. There was no such thing as political correctness then. Ellison and his adversaries did what they wanted and made no apologies for it.

Ellison is a brilliant entrepreneur and businessman. However, he is also as well-known as one of the bad boys of Silicon Valley. His stepping down marks the end of an era, one that was incredibly exciting yet reckless. He helped lay the foundation of the IT industry and set the bar nearly inaccessibly high for how a CEO should behave.

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About the Author(s)

Elliot Markowitz

Elliot Markowitz is a veteran in channel publishing. He served as an editor at CRN for 11 years, was editorial director of webcasts and events at Ziff Davis, and also built the webcast group as editorial director at Nielsen Business Media. He's served in senior leadership roles across several channel brands.

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