Oracle sales exec departs: reorg, or rebuke?

Oracle's Keith Block, a 26-year veteran who led sales in North America, has left the company. Why?

Don't get caught publicly saying things you shouldn't about the company.

That's seemingly the lesson from last night as reports emerged that Oracle's Keith Block, a 26-year veteran who most recently led sales in North America, left the company. Whether he resigned, or was dismissed, or his role was made redundant is unclear.

The news comes despite solid quarterly earnings, which my colleague Rachel King covered in detail last night. Block was not mentioned on the call, even though his unit accounts for half of all Oracle's business.

Block was seen unfavorably in some circles after messages he wrote -- which were critical of Oracle's deal with Sun, as well as co-president Mark Hurd -- came to light during the proceedings of its lawsuit with Hewlett-Packard this year.

No one really knows whether those messages had anything to do with Block's departure -- should execs be seen and not Hurd? who knows -- but analysts Rick Sherlund and Patrick Walravens suspect that the departure precedes a reorganization of the company's sales force.

That's not far-fetched. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said this during yesterday's call:

Our Oracle Cloud SaaS business is nearly at a billion dollar revenue run rate, the same size as our engineered systems hardware business.

As the company transitions from its old, hardware-based identity to a more nimble one based in the cloud, it's not a surprise that the sales organization may need to be restructured. What is a surprise is that Block isn't a part of it.