Few CEOs have been as consistently entertaining as Larry Ellison. Love him or hate him, you can depend on him to liven up a speech with a put-down, a faux pas or a zinger for a competitor. Reporters joke that his public relations staff must take a lot of Xanax before he takes the stage. You never know what he’s going to say next.
Ellison, who’s 70, stepped down as Oracle’s CEO on Thursday. He’ll still be executive chairman and CTO, so it’s unlikely we’ve heard the last of him yet. But to mark the end of an era, here are some of our favorite Ellison quotes, culled from various appearances.
A shareholder once asked Ellison why he needed two company presidents, Mark Hurd and Safra Catz.
“I just figured two’s better than one. Seriously, it’s a large company. We have a separation of responsibilities.”
Another shareholder complained it was too hard getting information about Oracle’s annual meeting.
“We love people to come to our annual meeting. We even have cookies.”
Oracle’s rivalry with Salesforce.com has been a constant favorite.
“You can check in, but you can’t check out. I like to think of it as the roach motel of clouds.”
Part of the animosity with Salesforce is that Ellison thinks he doesn’t get enough credit for “inventing” cloud computing. He was an early backer of NetSuite, one of the first cloud companies, but the mantle is often given to Salesforce’s Mark Benioff.
“I think I started the first cloud company,” he told an audience in San Francisco in January. “It’s called NetSuite. It’s a year older than Salesforce.com.”
The theme came up again at All Things D two years ago.
“I started NetSuite. NetSuite was my idea. I called up Evan Goldberg and said, ‘We’re going to do ERP [enterprise resource planning] on the Internet, software as a service.’ Six months later, Marc Benioff, finding out what NetSuite was doing, kind of copied it.”
Ellison has something to say about any competing technology that comes along.
“For those who think Hadoop is going to replace Oracle, they couldn’t possibly understand what Hadoop is. It’s batch processing. If you want to know someone’s phone number [in Hadoop], come back the next day.”
But his favorite target is German applications giant SAP.
“Ninety-nine percent of their business is ERP, and they haven’t rebuilt it for the cloud. They haven’t even started. It’s very hard for me to think of SAP as a competitor.”
Oracle is waging a legal battle with SAP, which admitted a former subsidiary stole its intellectual property. Ellison tried to subpoena SAP’s former CEO, Leo Apotheker, who was later CEO of Hewlett-Packard, but Apotheker was conveniently out of the country. It was too much for Ellison to pass up.
“We subpoenaed him for the SAP trial and he was on the lam. The HP board sent him to Bolivia to talk to customers. Then they sent him to Mongolia to talk to customers, just out of reach of the federal subpoenas.”
“The board figured out, we should have left Leo in Mongolia. Because when he came to California, it really got bad.”
HP’s decision to replace Hurd with Apotheker is another favorite.
“I’m speechless. … HP had several good internal candidates … but instead they pick a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP.”
He’s immensely proud of the security of the Oracle database.
“Mr. Snowden never could have gotten into an Oracle database,” he said in January.
On trying to imitate his old friend Steve Jobs:
“To model yourself after Steve Jobs is like, ‘I’d like to paint like Picasso, what should I do? Should I use more red?’”