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Oracle Execs On Leadership Changes: There's Nothing To See Here, People

Larry Ellison has stepped down as Oracle CEO after 37 years, and Oracle Co-Presidents Mark Hurd and Safra Catz are replacing him as co-CEOs. But they all insist that not much is changing aside from their titles.

Larry Ellison has been Oracle's CEO since co-founding the vendor in 1977, but he stepped down Thursday and is now chief technology officer.

Safra Catz and Mark Hurd, who've been co-presidents at Oracle since 2010, are taking over for Ellison as co-CEOs.

Yet even after the biggest executive leadership shuffle in Oracle's 37-year history, Ellison, Catz and Hurd spent most of Thursday's fiscal first-quarter earnings call insisting that their roles won't be changing much at all.

Ellison, in his prepared remarks, said Catz and Hurd "have done a great job" as co-presidents and "deserve the recognition of their new titles." He also said his role will largely remain the same despite switching titles.

Related: Oracle Bombshell: Ellison Stepping Down As CEO, Catz And Hurd To Share CEO Duties

Hurd and Catz have been effectively running the company as co-presidents for a while now, and Ellison has been working in a CTO-like capacity, an executive from one Oracle partner told CRN.

"He will continue to focus on setting the agenda for Oracle from a technology perspective, which is what he has proven to be quite good at," said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to comment publicly on Oracle's corporate matters.

Oracle said Catz will handle all manufacturing, finance and legal functions, while Hurd will oversee sales, service and vertical industry global business units.

During the Q&A, Hurd was asked whether his transition to the co-CEO role will result in any changes to Oracle's sales leadership, which falls under his purview. "No," Hurd replied tersely.

After several seconds of silence, Catz jumped in. "There will actually be no changes," she said. "I just want to clarify, there will be no changes whatsoever" to Oracle's sales organization.

"We're pretty flat in terms of the way we run the place, and we want to keep it that way," Hurd said. "So I want to stay close to the action, and not get farther away from the action."

Rumors of Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle restructuring its U.S. sales force have been bubbling since last year but have yet to materialize. Oracle has seen steady turnover in senior sales management in the past couple of years, and high-profile executives Adrian Jones and Matt Mills have left in recent months.

Despite several consecutive lackluster fiscal quarters, Ellison said Oracle is well positioned to take share from its rivals in the Software-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service markets. Oracle's SaaS and PaaS offerings are on track to grow 40 percent to 45 percent this quarter, he said.

Oracle's cloud bookings grew 54 percent in the first quarter, and Ellison said the company is focused on dethroning Salesforce.com as the market's top SaaS vendor.

NEXT: Ellison Says Cloud Could Make Oracle Bigger, More Important To Customers


Taking aim at another familiar foe, Ellison said Oracle added more ERP customers this quarter than Workday has in its entire nine-year history. "We are feeling pretty good about our ability to become the leader in ERP," he said.

Ellison, who famously dismissed the term "cloud computing" when it first emerged, said he believes cloud is an opportunity for Oracle to expand its influence into new areas and become more strategic to its customers.

"This is our chance to become more important," Ellison said. "We're all focused on this incredible opportunity to be one big company with all the resources to make this transition to the cloud and become a leader in that next generation of computing.

"It's an opportunity we're all focused on and we're not going to miss it," said Ellison.

Augustine Riolo, president of Knowledge Information Solutions, a Virginia Beach, Va.-based Oracle partner, called the leadership shuffle a "good thing" for the company.

"Larry Ellison is a huge personality. He's had great success, but more importantly, he knows Oracle from the technology and futures side," Riolo said.

Reza Zarafshar, president of Advanced Computing Concepts, a McLean, Va.-based Oracle partner, is also bullish on the executive leadership shuffle.

"You need to refresh the management just as much as you refresh your ideas. That’s how you get in new ideas into the company," Zarafshar said.

"It's very easy for a company as large and important as Oracle to become stagnant in their innovation and thinking with someone who has been at the helm so long. Ellison has done a tremendous job ... but still you need to bring in fresh ideas to any technology company."

SARAH KURANDA AND SAMANTHA ALLEN contributed to this story.

PUBLISHED SEPT.18, 2014

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