Larry Ellison Biography: Success Story of Oracle Co-Founder

Larry Ellison Biography

Larry Ellison

In this success story, we are going to share Larry Ellison biography co-founder and former CEO of the Oracle Corporation. Larry Ellison is one of the richest people in the world with the net worth of $55.2 billion as of March 2017 according to the Forbes World’s Billionaires list.

Ellison has donated up to 1% of his wealth and is taking part in The Giving Pledge commitment campaign.

Larry Elison takes part in yachting competitions with his Oracle Team USA, he is a licensed aircraft pilot, and he enjoys playing tennis and guitar. Larry Ellison is a self-made entrepreneur and billionaire who achieved his success through trials and errors. His parents did not have a penny, and during all his life he has been making up for the miserable childhood.

The distinctive personality traits of Larry Ellison are persistence, strategic vision, and passion to innovations.

Early Life

Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Ellison was born on August 17, 1944, in New York City. By that time, his mother, Florence Spellman, an unwed immigrant from Odessa, was only 19, and she was not ready to raise a child. As a result, a nine-month-old Larry was sent to his uncle and aunt. Larry has never seen his father, a United States Army Air Corps pilot, moreover, he did not know about the adoption up to his adolescence.

His mother’s sister Lillian Spellman Ellison and her husband, Louis Ellison (originated Goldman) who lived in a Jewish district in Chicago, adopted Larry Ellison. His adoptive father was a Russian immigrant and came up with the last name “Ellison” in tribute to Ellis Island gateway where he immigrated to the United States.

It was an ordinary family with the mother being kind, caring and loving and the father being strict, stubborn and exacting. Larry grew up independent, self-assured and uncompromising, which led to constant quarrels and misunderstandings with his stepfather as well as with his peers later on.

Even at school, Larry Ellison was a highbrow person. Being mostly interested in the complicated subjects such as spaceship construction, high technology, and engineering, he was bored by the schooling process. He was a mediocre student with sometimes a complex character. He enjoyed sports activity and played squash, volleyball, and hockey.

After graduating from the South Shore High School at Urbana-Champaign, Larry entered the University of Illinois in the 1960s. These were the first happy moments of his life. Future seemed to be unclouded and fruitful. The university curriculum came quickly to him, giving the feeling of independence and power. But after the death of Ellison’s adoptive mother, he refused to pass the final exams and dropped out of the University. After a year of part-time jobs, constant doubts, and profound reflections, Larry Ellison entered the University of Chicago intending to pursue a degree in physics and mathematics. However, he lost his interest in the education process and as a result of the poor performance, was expelled after the first semester. In 1966, he moved to California at the age of 22.

Living on the margin of poverty, Ellison became interested in the new fields such as computers and programming, which absorbed almost all his time. To get some knowledge in programming, he was reading the specialized literature; he soon started visiting different interest clubs and attending specific events, which admitted people like him. Very soon Larry stood out of the crowd thanks to his ability to learn fast.

Early Career

Larry Ellison found his first job at Amdahl Corporation, a technology company founded in 1970 by Gene Amdahl in Sunnyvale, California. At the beginning of the 1970s, Larry Ellison worked for an electronics company Amtex, founded by Alexander M. Poniatoff in 1944 that faced stiff competition with Sony Corporation. At Amtex, he mostly worked on a database for the CIA, which he called “Oracle.”

I believe people have to follow their dreams – I did. – Larry Ellison Click To Tweet

In 1977, Larry Ellison met Bob Miner met at Ampex, who was Larry’s supervisor then. However, Bob Miner quitted Ampex soon, and on June 16, 1977, he co-founded a company called, Software Development Laboratories (SDL), together with Bruce Scott and Ed Oates with the investment of $800. A few months later Larry Ellison joined their enterprise as a business partner and invested $1,200 into the firm.

Later, Ed Oates introduced Miner and Ellison to a paper by Edgar F. Codd on the relational model for database management called “A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks,” and Larry Ellison got inspired by it. Soon they started working on the database management system (DBMS). Companies used it for the distributed storage of the lists of clients, equipment data, financial notes, transaction information, correspondence, legal documents and so on.

Oracle Systems Corporation

In 1979, SDL was renamed into Relational Software Inc., and in 1982 officially became Oracle Systems Corporation after its flagship product, the Oracle RDBMS, which was an object-relational database management system. The initial release of Oracle RDBMS was issued under v2.0; there was no Oracle v1.0 as Ellison was sure that no one would buy version 1.

According to Ellison, the Oracle RDBMS could do unbelievable things at that time: to sort the best performing supermarkets from the whole supermarket chain or to sort and filter bestseller goods and products. Oracle RDBMS was able to process a vast amount of data, which became very alluring for the government and big business. There were only eight employees (including three co-founders: Larry Ellison, Bob Miner, and Ed Oates) and the company revenue reached less than $1 million.

Starting from 1974, IBM Corporation was also working on the database products based on Codd’s theories at IBM’s San Jose Research Laboratory. They developed IBM System R, and Ellison wanted Oracle products to be compatible with it. However, IBM executives refused to share System R’s code.

By 1982, the revenue of Oracle reached $2.5 million with 75 micro- and mini- clients on board. Larry Ellison invested 25 percent of the revenue into R&D during 1982 to develop a commercially available and portable Oracle RDBMS, based on the C programming language compiler. Oracle’s contracts with government agencies had provided enough funds to let their team focus on the commercially viable products that would help them to occupy some market share from IBM and other IT companies of those times.

In 1983, Oracle RDBMS of v.3 became a commercially accessible and could be installed on all types of operating systems such as mainframes, workstations, personal computers, microcomputers, etc. Ellison was right, and Oracle’s investments paid off by doubling company’s revenue to $5 million. In 1985, the company’s revenue sales reached $23 million, and in 1986, the revenue sales reached $55 million. Oracle focussed on the leading clients such as government agencies and largest international companies in the automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical and manufacture industries.


On March 12, 1986, Oracle Systems Corporation initiated its IPO on the NASDAQ (ORCL) stock exchange with the initial cost per share of $15 that increased to $20.75 at the close of the trading day by selling 2.1 million shares and raising $31.5 million.

Here is an interesting fact. You may question: how much are 100 Oracle shares worth today? Here is the answer: Oracle has had six 2/1 splits and four 3/2 splits. It means each initial share has grown to 324 shares. So 32,400 shares at $42.69 (cost per share as of March 08, 2017) equals $1,383,156.

After the IPO, Larry Ellison set up marketing subsidiaries in 17 countries to trade Oracle’s products in more than 35 countries. Soon Oracle introduced the SQL Star software that could process and retrieve data stored across the network’s computer systems.

Oracle’s Crisis

In 1990, Oracle faced its first crisis and finished the year with a negative net income and started losing money. The market value of the company was reduced by 80%, and it seemed as if the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. The same year, Oracle dismissed 10% of its employees, about 400 people. The main reason for the crisis was due to the aggressive marketing strategy. The sales team urged prospective clients to purchase all of the possible Oracle software at once by booking the value of the future license sales in the current quarter. As a result, such actions increased their bonuses, but when the scheduled sales failed to materialize afterward, this became a big issue. Being a public company, Oracle incurred additional costs to resolve class-action lawsuits from the shareholders regarding its overstated earnings. It was an incredible business fault, according to Larry Ellison. As a result, the company had to pay $24 million to its shareholders.

At the beginning of the 1990s, IBM had the biggest market share in mainframe relational database market with its database products such as DB2 and SQL/DS. While other competitors such as Sybase, Oracle, Informix, and Microsoft used the opportunity to occupy the niche for a relational database on UNIX and Windows and dominate mid-range systems and microcomputers.

You have to believe in what you do in order to get what you want. – Larry Ellison Click To Tweet

From 1990 to 1993, Sybase was the fastest-developing company, and Oracle remained behind. But after three years of biggest sales and significant mergers, Sybase sold all rights of its software to Microsoft Corporation, which now positions its software under the name “SQL Server.” In 1994, Sybase was absorbed by Informix that became the most prominent rival of Oracle.

The database competition between Informix CEO Phil White and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison headlined Silicon Valley news for three years till 1997 when Informix reported significant earnings restatements and profit shortfall. Phil White got into prison for such corporate fraud activity, and IBM absorbed Informix in 2001 (Sybase programmers and code completed IBM’s DB2 software).

In 1997, Larry Ellison was included in Apple Computer’s Board of Directors after Steve Jobs returned to the company. Ellison served a director of Apple Computer for five years, and on September 20, 2002, he resigned from this position.

Larry Ellison commented: “I will continue to offer my advice to Steve and the executive management team at Apple, but my schedule does not currently allow me to attend enough of the formal board meetings to warrant a role as a director.

Merger and Acquisitions

Larry Ellison is a great strategist. In his biography, he made a lot of strategic steps to the leading positions in the market to create a bigger software maker.

In October 1994, Oracle acquired a relational database management system (RDBMS), called Rdb division from DEC. It was the first official acquisition by Oracle.

One of Ellison’s necessary steps was a takeover of PeopleSoft, Inc by Oracle Corporation for $10.3 billion in 2004. PeopleSoft, Inc was a large company with 12,750 customers. It provided human resource management systems, supply chain management, customer relationship management, financial management solutions, and enterprise performance management software.

When you innovate, you've got to be prepared for everyone telling you you're nuts. – Larry Ellison Click To Tweet

On April 29, 2008, Oracle Corporation bought BEA Systems, Inc. for $8.5 billion. It was a company specialized in enterprise infrastructure software products. Larry Ellison was very determined in making Oracle Corporation number one in the computer technology industry and did all his best to catch up and surpass the giants in the software market.

On January 27, 2010, Larry Ellison agreed to buy Sun Microsystems, Inc. for $7 billion; that was one of the biggest acquisitions by Oracle. Once the deal has been finished, Oracle began to sell technologies, using new database and services based on Sun Microsystems technologies.

However, IBM and SAP remain Oracle’s main competitors.

Personal Life

Larry Ellison has been married four times, and each one ended up in a divorce.

In 1967, he met his first wife, Adda Quinn, when he was a student. They lived together for seven years, and it ended up with Adda’s leaving. Nevertheless, she did not blame him for anything. Moreover, she always considered him great, unpredictable and funny, still, very difficult to live with.

His second wife, Nancy Wheeler Jenkins, was a Stanford University student. She was believed to be the most beautiful girl at the university. Nancy and Larry got married in 1977. However, in the family life Nancy Wheeler Jenkins did not stand the test, and in July 1978, she asked for a divorce.

In 1983, Larry Ellison got married to Barbara Boothe, who was a former receptionist at Relational Software Inc. The couple lived together for four years and even gave birth to David and Margaret. They got divorced in 1986.

Their son, David Ellison, is the CEO of Skydance Media. Over the past few years, David became one of the most influential producers in Hollywood. His company to co-produce and co-finance movies with Paramount. Skydance Media is responsible for such feature-length films as Star Track: Into the Darkness (2013), Mission Impossible: The Rogue League (2015), Star Trek Beyond (2016), etc.

Their daughter, Megan Ellison, (born January 31, 1986) is a founder of Annapurna Pictures and an American film producer. She is best known for producing the films Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Her (2013), and American Hustle (2013). All of the movies were nominated for the Academy Awards.

The fourth wife of Larry Ellison was Melanie Craft, a romance novelist. On December 18, 2003, the couple got married at his Woodside estate. The official photographer was Ellison’s late friend Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, Inc. As a wedding present, Ellison gave 911,744 Oracle’s shares worth $11.9 million to his fourth wife, Melanie Craft. The couple got divorced in 2010.

In 2010, Ellison played a cameo role in Iron Man 2 (2010) with Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

As of 2017, Larry Ellison is dating with Nikita Kahn, a Ukrainian animal rights activist, actress, and model who is running her personal fashion blog.

Private Island: Lanai

In 2012, Larry completed an agreement to purchase 98% of Lanai for $300 million, one of the eight main islands of Hawaii and received 88,000 acres (137.50 square miles) of island land, which previously belonged to another billionaire, David Murdock, before the bargain.

The purchase included Lodge at Koele — two championship golf courses and clubhouses, the Koele Golf Course and the Manele Golf Course. It also included the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai at Manele Bay and the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai.

Larry Ellison is planning to develop the island’s infrastructure and to increase the production of fruit and vegetables for sale across the ocean. Also, he will be elaborating the project connected with renewable energy and turning salt water into drinking water.

Yachting Competitions

Apart from the achievements in business, Larry Ellison is the team principal of Oracle Team USA founded in 2000 as an American yacht syndicate. It was initially formed to compete for the 2003 America’s Cup, but they failed to win the first time. They made a second attempt and completed for 32nd America’s Cup, but gained no luck.

On February 14, 2010, Ellison’s trimaran USA 17 (formerly known as BMW Oracle Racing 90 or BOR90) won 33rd America’s Cup (Ellison participated in the 2nd race). The team also won the 34th America’s Cup in 2013.

Oracle Team USA also took part in 2011–13 America’s Cup World Series, but was excluded from the competition for cheating on August 08, 2013. In August 2013, the competition jury found out that their team made unauthorized modifications in their boat. As a result, Oracle Team USA received penalties that included a fine of $250,000, expelling three team members and a one-point penalty for each of the first two races of the Match in which they would otherwise score a point.

Larry Ellison was the owner of the eighths largest yacht in the world named Rising Sun till 2010 when he sold it to David Geffen. Rising Sun is a 453 feet (138 m) long yacht and costs about $200 million.


In 2009, Larry Ellison bought the Indian Wells Tennis Garden tennis facility near Palm Springs, California and the Indian Wells Masters tournament.


Larry Ellison is a licensed pilot. He owns several aircraft and military jets including an SIAI-Marchetti S.211, a turbofan-powered military trainer jet designed in Italy in 1984, and Mikoyan MiG-29, a twin-engine jet fighter aircraft designed in the Soviet Union, which the US government has prohibited Ellison to import to the US.

Once the city administration of San Jose in California cited Ellison for violation limits of takeoffs and landings between 11:30 p.m. and 6 a.m from San Jose Mineta International Airport by Gulfstream V, an aircraft that weighs more than 75,000 pounds (34,019 kg). In January 2000, Ellison filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city of San Jose that prohibits planes of a certain weight from landing between 11:30 p.m. and 6 a.m.

His lawsuit contended that his Gulfstream V aircraft is certified to fly at two weights: 75,000 pounds (34,019 kg), and at 90,000 pounds (40,823 kg), for long flights requiring more fuel or for heavier loads. Ellison’s attorney Ed Davis Jr. said that the pilot only landed the plane in San Jose when it weighed 75,000 pounds or less and they had the evidence to prove it.

In June 2001, US District Judge Jeremy Fogel ruled in Ellison’s favor, urging Ellison to waive from his plane. However, the judge did not invalidate the curfew.


In response to September 11 terroristic attack, Ellison offered to donate software to the American government that would enable to set up a new national identification database to issue ID cards and to have a possibility to identify everyone with high accuracy.

According to Forbes, in 2004 Ellison donated $151,092,103 (1% of Larry’s wealth) and was included in the list of 400 wealthiest American Philanthropists, ranking Ellison the 5th in the list after American business magnate Michael Dell.

The only way to get ahead is to find errors in conventional wisdom. – Larry Ellison Click To Tweet

In 2006, Larry donated $115 million to Harvard University. In 2010, Ellison and other 39 billionaires signed The Giving Pledge – a charity commitment campaign that encourages the wealthiest individuals of the world to contribute the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. The Giving Pledge was established by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. In 2011, the number of philanthropists increased to 81 and in 2013 – to 115 including Elon Musk, David Rockefeller, and Richard Branson.

Larry Ellison is an example of a man who has been confidently walking to the American Dream by bringing innovations to the software industry alongside. We hope you have enjoyed exploring Larry Ellison biography and his success story, and it has inspired you to new discoveries.

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