Who Is Larry Ellison? A Short History Of Oracle’s Founder

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Larry Ellison (Lawrence Ellison), who co-founded the enterprise software giant Oracle, and currently is a chief executive officer there, was born August 17, 1944 in the Bronx, New York. After being adopted as an infant by Jewish parents, he spent his high school years in the Chicago area. Larry himself did not subscribe to any religion, avoiding a bar mitzvah when he turned 13. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for a few years then attended the University of Chicago, where he grew interested in computer design, but soon dropped out. Then at age 20 he moved to Berkeley, California in 1964.

For his first eight years in Berkeley, Ellison worked for several different employers including Fireman’s Fund and Wells Fargo. He began doing computer programming work in the 1970s at Amdahl Corporation, where he helped build a mainframe system. He then moved on to Ampex Corporation before co-founding his own software company with two partners, Robert Miner and Ed Oates, called Software Development Lab in 1977. By this time CEO Ellison had become interested in Structured Query Language after reading a paper by Edgar F. Codd called “A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks.” The company changed its name a few years later to Relational Software, Inc.

Larry Ellison on the Open World conference in 2010, author: Ilan Costica

The software company’s first big client was the Central Intelligence Agency, who signed a two year contract with Ellison’s team to build a relational database management system. This project, created in just one year, was called Oracle. In 1981 IBM contracted with Relational Software to use the Oracle database software for its mainframe systems, which put Ellison’s company on the path to robust, growing sales. In 1986 the company went public under the name Oracle Corporation, as $31.5 million was raised in the initial public offering.

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Oracle’s success temporarily dried up in 1990 when it posted its first negative earnings report, which hammered the stock, pointing the company toward possible bankruptcy. But Ellison radically reorganized the staff as he shifted his focus on product development and hired more seasoned managers. The changes paid off in 1992 when the company released Oracle 7, which made the company the leading developer of database management software, restoring Oracle’s stock price.

Despite the company’s rebound, Ellison faced several physical injuries throughout the decade involving his participation in outdoor sporting activities, such as yacht racing, body surfing and mountain bike riding. He won a major Australian yacht race in 1998 from Sydney to Hobart, surviving a hurricane that killed six contestants. During this time Oracle’s profile rose as their software began attracting huge clients such as banks, automakers, airlines and national retailers. By the end of the decade Oracle had established itself as the premiere online business applications provider.


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