Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Ellison (born August 17, 1944) is an American business magnate, co-founder and chief executive officer of Oracle Corporation, a major enterprise software company. As of 2011, he is the fifth richest person in the world, with a personal wealth of $39.5 billion.
Larry Ellison was born in New York City to Florence Spellman, an unwed 19-year-old. Ellisons biological father was an Italian-American U. S. Air Force pilot, who was stationed abroad before Spellman realized that she had become pregnant by him. After Larry Ellison contracted pneumonia at the age of nine months, his mother determined that she was unable to care for him adequately, and arranged for him to be adopted by her aunt and uncle in Chicago. Lillian Spellman Ellison and Louis Ellison adopted him when he was nine months old. Lillian was the second wife of Louis Ellison, an immigrant who had arrived in the United States in 1905 from Russia. Larry Ellison did not meet his biological mother until he was 48.
Ellison graduated from Eugene Field Elementary School on Chicagos north side in January, 1958 and attended Sullivan High School at least through the fall of 1959 before moving to South Shore.
Ellison was raised in a Reform Jewish family. He grew up in a two-bedroom apartment in Chicagos South Shore middle-class Jewish neighborhood. 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. Louis, his adoptive father, was a modest government employee who had made a small fortune in Chicago real estate, only to lose it during the Great Depression. Ellison was a bright but inattentive student. He left the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign at the end of his second year, after not taking his final exams because his adoptive mother had just died. After spending a summer in Northern California, where he lived with his friend Chuck Weiss, he attended the University of Chicago for one term, where he first encountered computer design. In 1964, at 20 years of age, he moved to northern California permanently.
During the 1970s, after a brief stint at Amdahl Corporation, Ellison worked for Ampex Corporation. One of his projects was a database for the CIA, which he named “Oracle”.
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”. In 1977, he founded Software Development Laboratories (SDL). In 1979, the company was renamed Relational Software Inc., later renamed Oracle after the flagship product Oracle database. He had heard about the IBM System R database, also based on Codds theories, and wanted Oracle to be compatible with it, but IBM made this impossible by refusing to share System Rs code. The initial release of Oracle was Oracle 2; there was no Oracle 1. The release number was intended to imply that all of the bugs had been worked out of an earlier version.
In 1990, Oracle laid off 10% (about 400 people) of its work force because it was losing money. This crisis, which almost resulted in Oracles bankruptcy, came about because of Oracles “up-front” marketing strategy, in which sales people urged potential customers to buy the largest possible amount of software all at once. The sales people then booked the value of future license sales in the current quarter, thereby increasing their bonuses. This became a problem when the future sales subsequently failed to materialize. 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.”
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 left the door open for Sybase, Oracle, and Informix (and eventually Microsoft) to dominate mid-range systems and microcomputers.
Around this time, Oracle fell behind Sybase. In 1990??“1993, Sybase was the fastest growing database company and the database industrys darling vendor, but soon fell victim to its merger mania. Sybases 1993 merger with Powersoft resulted in a loss of focus on its core database technology. In 1993, Sybase sold the rights to its database software running under the Windows operating system to Microsoft Corporation, which now markets it under the name “SQL Server.”
In 1994, Informix Software overtook Sybase and became Oracles most important rival. The intense war between Informix CEO Phil White and Ellison was front page Silicon Valley news for three years. In April, 1997, Informix announced a major revenue shortfall and earnings restatements; Phil White eventually landed in jail, and Informix was absorbed by IBM in 2000. Also in 1997, Ellison was made a director of Apple Computer after Steve Jobs came back to the company. Ellison resigned in 2002, saying that he did not have the time to attend necessary formal board meetings. Once Informix and Sybase were defeated, Oracle enjoyed years of industry dominance until the rise of Microsoft SQL Server in the late 90s and IBMs acquisition of Informix Software in 2001 to complement their DB2 database. Today Oracles main competition for new database licenses on UNIX, Linux, and Windows operating systems is with IBMs DB2, and with Microsoft SQL Server (which only runs on Windows). IBMs DB2 still dominates the mainframe database market.
In April 2009, Oracle announced its intent to buy Sun Microsystems after a tug of war with IBM and Hewlett-Packard. The European Union approved the acquisition by Oracle of Sun Microsystems on January 21, 2010 and agreed that “Oracles acquisition of Sun has the potential to revitalize important assets and create new and innovative products”. On August 9, 2010, Ellison denounced Hewlett-Packards board for firing CEO Mark Hurd, writing: “The H.P. board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago.” Ellison and Hurd are close personal friends ??“ Hurd often plays tennis at Ellisons house. Then on September 6, Oracle hired Mark Hurd and made him Co-President alongside Safra A. Catz. Ellison retained the CEO position. Ellison owns stakes in Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Quark Biotechnology Inc. and SuperGen.