Larry Ellison has not left the building. For Oracle's sake, maybe he should

Company co-founder Larry Ellison may no longer have a stranglehold on Oracle's tiller, but he's still large and in charge.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The only way I ever thought Larry Ellison would leave Oracle's boardroom would be in a hearse. On his tombstone, made of the finest Carrara marble with platinum letters, it would read something like "Larry 'Oracle' Ellison, Founded 1977, Closed 2047." I mean, seriously: In an industry filled with control freaks, Ellison is the Platonic ideal of iron-fisted control.

Nope, Larry Ellison may no longer be Oracle's CEO, but he's not going anywhere.

So, what's this!? Larry Ellison, is stepping down from the CEO slot and handing it over off to co-CEOs Mark Hurd and Safra Catz!? Inconceivable!

At a closer look, inconceivable doesn't mean what you think it means. Yes, Ellison did say he was stepping down as CEO, but in full he said,

Mark and Safra have done a spectacular job and I think they deserve the recognition of their new titles. I'm going to continue to work with Thomas Curry in software engineering and John Fowler in hardware engineering and Ed and Mark and Safra as I have exactly in the past. So I'm going to continue doing what I've been doing over the last several years. They're going to continue what they've been doing over the last several years so they deserve the recognition. They deserve the CEO title. And I'm happy that our Management team continues forward. As a team.

So, it seems that Ellison may not have been as hands-on for a while now. The signs have been there. Beside buying a Hawaiian island, cameoing as himself in Iron Man 2, and setting up a secret volcanic lair – no, wait that was Ernst Blofeld in the James Bond film You Only Live TwiceEllison skipped giving the keynote at his own conference to watch his America's Cup team win.

This is not the work-driven Ellison of a even a few years ago. Still, co-CEO Catz emphasized that "I just want to make sure we are very, very clear. There will actually be no changes, no significant changes right, just want to clarify, no changes whatsoever."

OK, OK, we get it. Larry may not be the CEO, but he's still the man. 

Maybe there should be some changes, though. True, Ellison, as chairman and CTO, will still be driving product engineering and threatening would-be rivals such as SAP and a host of cloud companies. At the same time, Catz will continue to direct operations while Hurd handles sales. Besides the mandatory joke of the difficulties of managing Catz Hurding, Oracle will probably continue on its current path.

That's not good news.

Behind the headline news of Ellison no longer being the CEO, Oracle has continued to miss its earning estimates in five out of the last seven quarters. In particular, Oracle's cloud business may be growing, but it's not growing fast enough.

I see businesses that, after being locked into Oracle's databases, steering clear of going down a similar road with Oracle's cloud offerings. Some of them may also recall Ellison asking at Oracle OpenWorld in 2008, "What the hell is cloud computing?" And, answering, "I mean, it’s really just complete gibberish."

That doesn't inspire confidence.

If Oracle wants to continue to be a dominant player it might be time for Ellison to really retire...

Oh, who am I kidding?! He may be 70 and he could retire to splashing in a pool of gold ala Scrooge McDuck, but although his title may change, this is Larry Ellison we're talking about. When push comes to shove on any major decision, he's still going to be the one calling the shots.

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