In this success story, we will share the biography of Larry Ellison, co-founder and former CEO of the Oracle Corporation. Larry Ellison is one of the wealthiest people in the world, with a net worth of $135.9 billion as of October 2023, according to the Forbes World’s Billionaires List.
Ellison has donated up to 1% of his wealth and is participating in The Giving Pledge commitment campaign.
Larry Elison participates in yachting competitions with his Oracle Team USA; he is a licensed aircraft pilot and enjoys playing tennis and guitar. Larry Ellison is a self-made entrepreneur and billionaire who succeeded through trial and error. His parents did not have a penny, and during all his life, he has been making up for his miserable childhood.
Larry Ellison’s distinctive personality traits are persistence, strategic vision, and passion for innovation.
Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Ellison was born in New York City on August 17, 1944. By then, his mother, Florence Spellman, an unwed immigrant from Odessa, was only 19 and unprepared 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, a Russian immigrant, 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 and his peers later on.
Even at school, Larry Ellison was a highbrow person. Being primarily interested in 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 activities 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. The future seemed to be unclouded and fruitful. The university curriculum came quickly to him, giving him a 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 interest in the education process and was expelled after the first semester due to poor performance. In 1966, he moved to California at the age of 22.
Living on the margin of poverty, Ellison became interested in new fields such as computers and programming, which absorbed almost all his time. To gain some knowledge in programming, he read specialized literature; he soon started visiting different interest clubs and attending specific events that admitted people like him. Larry soon stood out of the crowd thanks to his ability to learn fast.
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 primarily worked on a database for the CIA called “Oracle.”I believe people have to follow their dreams – I did. – Larry Ellison Click To Tweet
In 1977, Larry Ellison met Bob Miner, Larry’s supervisor, at Ampex. However, Bob Miner quit 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 an 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,” Larry Ellison was inspired by it. Soon, they started working on the database management system (DBMS). Companies use it to store lists of clients, equipment data, financial notes, transaction information, correspondence, legal documents, and so on.
Oracle Systems Corporation
In 1979, SDL was renamed Relational Software Inc. In 1982, it officially became Oracle Systems Corporation after its flagship product, the Oracle RDBMS, 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: sort the best-performing supermarkets from the whole supermarket chain or sort and filter bestseller goods and products. Oracle RDBMS processed vast data, which was 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.
In 1974, IBM Corporation also worked on 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. 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 payment into R&D in 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 commercially accessible and could be installed on all operating systems, such as mainframes, workstations, personal computers, microcomputers, etc. Ellison was right, and Oracle’s investments paid off by doubling the company’s revenue to $5 million. In 1985, the company’s revenue sales reached $23 million; in 1986, the revenue sales reached $55 million. Oracle focuses on leading clients such as government agencies and the most prominent international companies in the automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing industries.
On March 12, 1986, Oracle Systems Corporation initiated its IPO on the NASDAQ (ORCL) stock exchange with an 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. This means that 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.
In 1990, Oracle faced its first crisis, finished the year with a negative net income, and started losing money. The company’s market value was reduced by 80%, and it seemed to be 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 the possible Oracle software at once by booking the value of 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 most significant market share in the mainframe relational database market with its database products such as DB2 and SQL/DS. 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. However, after three years of extensive 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, Informix absorbed Sybase, which became Oracle’s most prominent rival.
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 was imprisoned for corporate fraud, 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 as 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 more prominent 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 specializing in enterprise infrastructure software products. Larry Ellison was very determined to make Oracle Corporation number one in the computer technology industry and did 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 most significant acquisitions by Oracle. Once the deal had been finished, Oracle began to sell technologies, using new databases and services based on Sun Microsystems technologies.
However, IBM and SAP remain Oracle’s main competitors.
Larry Ellison has been married four times, and each one ended up in a divorce.
In 1967, he met his first wife, Adda Quinn, as a student. They lived together for seven years, ending with Adda’s leaving. Nevertheless, she did not blame him for anything. Moreover, she always considered him excellent, unpredictable, and funny, but 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 family life, Nancy Wheeler Jenkins did not stand the test, and in July 1978, she asked for a divorce.
In 1983, Larry Ellison married Barbara Boothe, 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 has become 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 married at his Woodside estate. The official photographer was Ellison’s late friend Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc.’s co-founder. Ellison gave 911,744 Oracle shares worth $11.9 million as a wedding present 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 Nikita Kahn, a Ukrainian animal rights activist, actress, and model running her 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 had the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai at Manele Bay and the Four Seasons Resorts Lanai.
Larry Ellison plans to develop the island’s infrastructure and increase the production of fruit and vegetables for sale across the ocean. Also, he will be elaborating on the project connected with renewable energy and turning salt water into drinking water.
Apart from his 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 failed to win the first time. They made a second attempt and completed the 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 the 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 participated in the 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 discovered that their team made unauthorized modifications to their boat. As a result, Oracle Team USA received penalties that included a fine of $250,000, expulsion of 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 eighth largest yacht in the world, Rising Sun, till 2010 when he sold it to David Geffen. Rising Sun is a 453-foot (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. This aircraft 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 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 the September 11 terroristic attack, Ellison offered to donate software to the American government that would enable it to set up a new national identification database to issue ID cards and possibly identify everyone with high accuracy.
According to Forbes, Ellison donated $151,092,103 (1% of Larry’s wealth) in 2004 and was included in the list of 400 wealthiest American Philanthropists, ranking Ellison the 5th 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 39 other billionaires signed The Giving Pledge – a charity commitment campaign encouraging the world’s wealthiest individuals to contribute most of their wealth to philanthropy. Warren Buffett and Bill Gates established the Giving Pledge. In 2011, the number of philanthropists increased to 81; in 2013, it grew 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. We hope you have enjoyed exploring Larry Ellison’s biography and his success story, inspiring you to make discoveries.
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