The Hardware Database by Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison

"When you innovate, you've got to be prepared for everyone telling you you're nuts."

- Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison is renowned for his impeccable business sense, drive and ambition. It's no surprise that in order to achieve Ellison's success, one must take huge risks and learn from mistakes made along the way.

With a net worth of more than $50 billion, Ellison, known as a business magnate, co-founder and CEO of Oracle, an American multinational computer technology corporation with soaring stock price, has reached the peak of his success.

Ellison is not only one of the world’s richest persons, but is also one of the most flamboyant and outspoken of the lot. As a representation of his business personality, his tailor made Italian suits and shirts made him look as if he was born to be a billionaire.

Early Life

Lawrence Joseph "Larry" Ellison was born in August 17th, 1944, in Bronx, New York City to an unwed Jewish heritage mother; and an Italian American U.S. Air Force pilot father. After he contracted pneumonia at the age of nine months his mother gave him to her aunt and uncle in Chicago for adoption.

Ellison graduated from Eugene Field Elementary School in Chicago in January 1958 and attended Sullivan High School at least through the fall of 1959 before moving to South Shore. He grew up in a two-bedroom apartment in Chicago's South Shore middle-class Jewish neighborhood. His adoptive father, Louis Ellison, was a modest government employee who had made a small fortune in Chicago real estate, only to lose it during the Great Depression, and made a modest living as an auditor for the public housing authority.

As a child, Larry Ellison showed an independent, rebellious streak and often clashed with his adoptive father. From an early age, he showed a strong aptitude for math and science. Ellison remembers his adoptive mother as warm and loving, in contrast to his austere, unsupportive, and often distant adoptive father, who adopted the name Ellison to honor his point of entry into the USA, Ellis Island.

Ellison was a bright but inattentive student. He left the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after his second year, after not taking his final exams because his adoptive mother had just died. After spending a summer in Northern California, Ellison attended the University of Chicago for one term, where he first encountered computer design, but dropped out again after the first semester.

His adoptive father was now convinced that Ellison would never make anything of himself, but the seemingly aimless young man had already learned the rudiments of computer programming in Chicago. He took all his skills and resources in 1966, aged 22, when he moved to Northern California, arriving with just enough money for fast food and a few tanks of gas. For the next eight years, Ellison bounced from job to job, working as a technician for Fireman's Fund and Wells Fargo bank.

Ellison did not meet his biological mother again until he was 48.

Building the Oracle

Larry Ellison was inspired by the paper written by Edgar F. Codd on relational database systems called "A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks" that saw no commercial potential in the concept of a Structured Query Language (SQL).

Ellison saw the potential of SQL, and in June 16th, 1977, Ellison founded Software Development Laboratories (SDL) with two of his Ampex colleagues, Robert Miner and Ed Oates with $2,000 investment. With the $1,200 came from Ellison. From the start of the company's movement, Ellison served as Chief Executive Officer.

During the 1970s, One of his projects was a database for the CIA, which he named "Oracle". They finished the project a year ahead of schedule and used the extra time to develop their system for commercial applications. They named their commercial RDBMS Oracle as well. In 1980, Ellison's company had only eight employees, and revenues were less than $1 million, but the following year, IBM itself adopted Oracle for its mainframe systems, and Oracle's sales doubled every year for the next seven years. The million dollar company was becoming a billion dollar company. Ellison renamed the company Oracle Corporation, for its best-selling product.

The Declining and Rising Oracle

In 1986, Oracle went public, raising $31.5 million with its initial public offering, but the firm's young employees habitually overstated revenues, and in 1990 the company posted its first losses. Oracle's market capitalization fell by 80 percent and the company appeared to be on the verge of bankruptcy.

Accepting the need for drastic change, in 1990 Ellison replaced 10 percent (about 400 people) of the company's original senior staff with more experienced managers. Oracle eventually had to restate its earnings twice, and also to settle out of court class action lawsuits arising from its having overstated its earnings. Ellison would later say that Oracle had made "an incredible business mistake."

For the first time, Ellison delegated the management side of the business to professionals, and channeled his own mind and energies into product development. A new version of the database program Oracle 7, released in 1992, swept the field and made Oracle the industry leader in database management software. In only two years the company's stock had regained much of its previous value.

Although IBM dominated the mainframe relational database market with its DB2 and SQL/DS database products, it delayed entering the market for a relational database on UNIX and Windows operating systems. This gave the chance for Oracle, Sybase, and Informix (and eventually Microsoft) to dominate mid-range systems and microcomputers.

The dominance continued until the rise of Microsoft SQL Server in the late 1990s and IBM's acquisition of Informix Software in 2001 to complement their DB2 database.

At first, Oracle was behind Sybase and Informix. In 1994, Informix overtook Sybase and became Oracle's most important rival. The intense war between Informix CEO Phil White and Ellison was front page Silicon Valley news for three years. But once Informix and Sybase were defeated, Oracle enjoyed years of industry dominance.

Oracle's fortunes continued to rise throughout the late 1990s. America's banks, airlines, automobile companies and retail giants are all becoming dependent on Oracle's database programs. Under Ellison's leadership, Oracle became a pioneer in providing business applications over the internet. Oracle benefited hugely from the growth of electronic commerce; its net profits increased by 76 percent in a single quarter of the year 2000. As the stocks of other high tech companies fluctuated wildly as the dot-com 'bubble' bursts, Oracle held its value.

In 2005, Oracle paid Ellison a $975,000 salary, a $6,500,000 bonus, and other compensation of $955,100. In 2007, Ellison earned a total compensation of $61,180,524, which included a base salary of $1,000,000, a cash bonus of $8,369,000, and options granted of $50,087,100. In 2008, he earned a total compensation of $84,598,700, which included a base salary of $1,000,000, a cash bonus of $10,779,000, no stocks granted, and options granted of $71,372,700. In the year ending May 31, 2009 he made $56.8 million. In 2006, Forbes ranked him as the richest Californian.

As the largest shareholder, founder and CEO Larry Ellison, came close to a long-cherished goal, surpassing Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world at that time.

Starting in 2004, Ellison set out to increase Oracle's market share through a series of strategic acquisitions. Oracle spent more than $25 billion in three years to buy small to large companies, makers of software for managing data, identity, retail inventory and logistics.

In April 2009, Oracle announced that it is intending to buy Sun Microsystems, competing with IBM and Hewlett-Packard. On July 2, 2009, for the fourth year in a row, Oracle's Board awarded Ellison another 7 million stock options. On August 22, 2009, it was reported that Ellison would be paid only $1 for his base salary for the fiscal year of 2010, down from the $1,000,000 he was paid in fiscal 2009.

The European Union approved the acquisition by Oracle of Sun Microsystems on January 21, 2010 and agreed that "Oracle's acquisition of Sun has the potential to revital

Today Oracle's main competition for new database licenses on UNIX, Linux, and Windows operating systems is with IBM's DB2, and with Microsoft SQL Server (which only runs on Windows). IBM's DB2 still dominates the mainframe database market. Oracle also faces significant competition from Open Source software such as PostgreSQL and NoSQL data storage systems such as MongoDB.

Ellison served as President of Oracle from 1978 to 1996, and undertook Chairman of the Board, from 1990 to 1992, and again from 1995 to 2004. Since its founding, he has been Oracle's only Chief Executive Officer.

Personal Life

Larry Ellison is one of the most flamboyant and outspoken businessmen of the century, not to mention one of the richest. With a net worth of more than $50 billion, he stands out as a billionaire with his tailor made Italian suits and shirts.

Ellison that is often deemed as the most eligible bachelor in Silicon Valley, has been married and divorced four times.

  • Adda Quinn (1967-1974).
  • Nancy Wheeler Jenkins (1977-1978). The couple married six months before Ellison founded Software Development Laboratories. In 1978, the couple divorced. Wheeler gave up any claim on her husband's company for $500.
  • Barbara Boothe (1983-1986). Barbara was a former receptionist at Relational Software Inc (RSI). The couple had two children, David and Megan. Both Megan and David were executive producers of the 2010 Coen Brothers film True Grit.
  • Melanie Craft, a romance novelist, (2003-2010). The coupple married on December 18, 2003, at Ellison's Woodside estate. Ellison's late friend Steve Jobs, former CEO and co-founder of Apple, Inc, was the official wedding photographer, and Representative Tom Lantos officiated.

Ellison that had made a cameo appearance at Iron Man 2, purchased a 50 percent share in one of the top four tennis tournaments in the United States, the BNP Paribas Open. Ellison also owns many exotic cars, including an Audi R8, and a McLaren F1. His favorite is the Acura NSX, which he was known to give as gifts each year during its production. Ellison is also the owner of a Lexus LFA and a Lexus LS600hL.

Ellison owns a one of the largest Feadships. His Musashi yacht measures 88 meters and has been designed by acclaimed Dutch design agency Sinot Yacht Design, and a 180-foot yacht which he used for racing in the 94th annual race to Mackinac. BMW Oracle Racing was the Challenger of Record on behalf of the Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco for the 2007 America's Cup in Valencia, Spain until eliminated from the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup challenger selection series in the semi-finals. On February 14, 2010, Ellison's yacht USA 17 won the second race (in the best of three "deed of gift" series) of the 33rd America's Cup, after winning the first race two days earlier. Securing a historic victory, Ellison and his BMW Oracle team became the first challengers to win a "deed of gift" match. The Cup returned to American shores for the first time since 1995. Ellison was a crew member for the second race. Ellison is a principal supporter of the BMW Oracle Racing team, which has been a significant force in America's Cup competition.

As an enthusiast of strenuous outdoor activities, Ellison suffered serious injuries while body surfing and mountain biking. He recovered from major surgery, and continued to race his 78-foot yacht, Sayonara, and to practice aerobatics in a succession of private jets, including decommissioned fighter planes. In 1998, Ellison and Sayonara won the Sydney to Hobart race, overcoming near-hurricane winds that sank five other boats, drowning six participants. His own yacht, Rising Sun, over 450 feet long, is one of the largest privately owned vessels in the world, and the eighth largest yacht in the world. In 2010, Ellison ended his ownership of the Rising Sun.

Ellison is a licensed pilot who has owned several aircraft. He also owns at least two military jets: a SIAI-Marchetti S.211, a training aircraft designed in Italy, and a decommissioned MiG-29, for which the US Government has refused him permission to import. He also known to own a Citation X aircraft and a Gulfstream V.

Ellison owns several homes and mansions. His $110 million principal home in Woodside, California is styled after feudal Japanese architecture, complete with a man-made 2.3-acre (9,300 m2) lake and an extensive seismic retrofit.

He also purchased more than 12 properties in Malibu, California, worth more than $180 million. The $65 million Ellison spent on five contiguous lots at Malibu's Carbon Beach was regarded as one of the most costly residential transaction in United States history.

In early 2010, he purchased the Astor's Beechwood Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, for $10.5 million. In 2011, he purchased the 249 acre Porcupine Creek Estate and private golf course in Rancho Mirage, California for $42.9 million.

On June 21, 2012, Hawaii's governor, Neil Abercrombie, declared that Ellison had signed an agreement to buy most of the island of Lanai from the Castle & Cooke company, owned by David H. Murdock. Ellison currently owns 98 percent of Lanai, Hawaii's sixth-largest island.

Despite his flamboyant lifestyle, Ellison has given away millions to charity. He donated $1 million to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief Fund, ad made a controversial offer to donate to the Federal government software in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks. He made this contribution to enable it to build and run a national identification database and issue ID cards.

In August 2010, Ellison became one of the 40 billionaires who has signed "The Giving Pledge". Ellison wrote: "Many years ago, I put virtually all of my assets into a trust with the intent of giving away at least 95 percent of my wealth to charitable causes. I have already given hundreds of millions of dollars to medical research and education, and I will give billions more over time. Until now, I have done this giving quietly - because I have long believed that charitable giving is a personal and private matter."

Larry Ellison is a living proof that business is not something learned through academic textbooks, but rather an innate gift. As a college dropout, Ellison is renowned for his impeccable business sense, drive and ambition. It's no surprise that in order to achieve Ellison's success, one must take huge risks and learn from mistakes made along the way.

As of 2014, he was the third-wealthiest American with an estimated worth of $56.2 billion including his ownership of Oracle company stock.