Oracle CEO Safra Catz shoots down Salesforce.com buyout rumor

"We never comment on these kinds of things," the co-chief executive responded. "We've never had a deal leak."
Written by Rachel King, Contributor
Oracle co-chief executive Safra Catz
(Image via Oracle)

REDWOOD CITY, CALIF. -- When Safra Catz first joined Oracle, the co-chief executive admitted she joked to company founder Larry Ellison at the time that she'd only be with the company for about four years.

Catz, now in the middle of her third week of her seventeenth year at Oracle, traced how the tech titan has grown from "fighting it out" in the database market to being the largest player in the world presently.

"Silver medal, first loser," Catz summed up frankly at Oracle's first media day at corporate headquarters on Thursday. "We're not good at being number two. That huge boat out in the pond here makes that point better."

Calling out former rivals such as Sybase, Catz posited Oracle "beat those guys and they helped us by beating themselves." What Oracle gained from that, she continued, were actually "much scarier" competitors -- namely Microsoft (the "guys with all the money in the world") and IBM ("which historically dwarfed us," Catz admitted).

"I joined in 1999. I know it's embarrassing," Catz said with a laugh. "Oracle started as a database company. That was my first exposure," quipping later this was all "way before anyone was using" acronyms like "SaaS" and "PaaS."

Perhaps more synonymous with hardware and databases to its legacy customers as well, Oracle's cloud business is at the top of the tech giant's agenda this year.

Despite some recent qualms over currency conversions (a trend shared throughout the tech industry this quarter), Oracle has repeatedly championed its burgeoning cloud portfolio as its shining star on the last several earnings reports.

Oracle chairman and chief technology officer Larry Ellison has gone so far as to predict that the company -- now the second largest Software-as-a-Service provider worldwide -- would soon surpass its fierce industry rival Salesforce.com by the end of the year.

Of course, Oracle has a fierce crowd of competitors in the cloud market too.

"As we move to the cloud, SAP has no answer for those customers," Catz argued, also namedropping Workday, ServiceNow, and Salesforce as competitors Oracle sees as lacking in one way or another.

Nevertheless, Oracle has had an ongoing partnership with friend and foe Salesforce for some time. A Bloomberg report earlier this week even hinted at Oracle being a potential buyer in a rumored takeover bid for the CRM company.

Catz deflected those reports immediately.

"We never comment on these kinds of things," Catz responded. "We've never had a deal leak."

However, when pressed with the hypothetical if another company did buy Salesforce, Catz acknowledged that "disruption" to the industry would be interesting.

"If it's acquired by someone else, it's probably good for us, to be honest," Catz remarked. "Everyone brings they're own stuff to these things, especially someone big enough to acquire them."

Catz also answered a few questions about the new leadership dynamic at Oracle -- namely sharing the role of chief executive officer with Mark Hurd following Ellison's surprising role change last year.

"We have so much fun. Whenever I'm away, I miss our little crowd, Larry and Mark," Catz quipped. "The truth of the matter is that a lot of the path we're crossing is like a field through which no one has gone before. We're not quite sure which way to go."

Explaining it's better to have more minds in the thought (and even argument) process, Catz concluded with a smile: "Why should I suffer alone?"

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