Salesforce's Benioff 'pulled' from Oracle conference

CEO Marc Benioff alleges his presentation at Oracle OpenWorld has been cancelled and US$1 million fee returned because Larry Ellison's keynote speech earlier was "such a disaster" and it didn't want to be upstaged, report reveals.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff lifted the lid on his no-show at the Oracle OpenWorld trade show, alleging that his presentation slot was "cancelled" by the organizer over concerns he would upstage its own CEO. Oracle rebutted by saying the session was moved, rather than cancelled.

According to a Wednesday report by the New York Times (NYT), Benioff said his company received an e-mail from Oracle at 3.15 p.m. on Tuesday stating that his presentation slot was "cancelled" and the company would get their "million dollars [speaker's fee]  back". The Salesforce.com CEO was scheduled to appear at the conference on Wednesday morning, the report noted.

Commenting on the turn of events, Benioff told NYT that he was happy to be persona non grata at his competitor's event. "This is the best possible outcome. It's free publicity, and it is clear that Oracle is threatened by us."

Oracle responded via an e-mail, saying: "Due to the overwhelming attendance at Oracle OpenWorld, we had to make several session changes. The Salesforce.com Executive Solution Session was moved to Thursday at 8 a.m. in the Novellus Theater."

Benioff said he was unable to appear at that time as he was previously scheduled to travel "and besides, the show is over then". He was possibly referring to the fact that Oracle would be holding a free concert for conference attendees late into Wednesday night, thus, rendering an appearance early Thursday morning less appealing to many.

Quizzed why he thought his slot was cancelled, Benioff stated it was because Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's keynote speech Sunday night was "such a disaster".

"Larry was not prepared," he said. "The keynote was panned in the blogs and on Twittersphere. There was concern that we would put on a better presentation. You don't have somebody over to your house to tell better jokes than you."

He added that Salesforce.com was "doing fantastic" as a company and fundamentally viewed as a threat to an industry which Oracle leads, along with Microsoft.

Salesforce.com later released an official media statement, which quoted Benioff to say:  "Oracle just cancelled my keynote tomorrow. But the show must go on! Everyone is welcome to join me at Ame Restaurant tomorrow to hear about the social enterprise. Sorry Larry, the cloud can't be stopped."

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