Sunday, February 25, 2007

Larry Ellison

Lawrence J. Ellison was born in the Bronx, New York. At nine months, he contracted pneumonia, and his unmarried 19 year-old mother gave him to her great aunt and uncle to raise. Lawrence was raised in a two-bedroom apartment on the South Side of Chicago. Until he was twelve years old he did not know that he was adopted. His great uncle and adoptive father had lost his real estate business in the Great Depression and made a modest living as an auditor for the public housing authority. As a boy, Larry Ellison showed an independent, rebellious streak and often clashed with his adoptive father. He showed a strong aptitude for math and science, and was named science student of the year at the University of Illinois. During the final exams in his second year, Ellison's adoptive mother die, and he dropped out of school. He enrolled at the University of Chicago the following fall, but dropped out after the first semester. his father was now convinced he would never make anything of himself, but Ellison had learned the rudiments of computer programming in Chicago and took this skill with him to Berkeley, California, arriving with just enough money for fast food and a few tanks of gas.

For the next eight years he bounced from job to job, working as a technician for Fireman's Fund, Wells Fargo bank and began working as a programmer with large databases at Ampex. At Ampex he built a large database for the CIA, code name: Oracle.

Larry Ellison Biography Photo
In 1977, Ellison and his former supervisor from Ampex, Robert Miner, founded Software Development Labs. They supported themselves by consulting for an assortment of corporate clients, when Ellison read a paper called "A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks" by E. F Codd, describing a concept Codd had developed at IBM. IBM had seen no commercial potential in the concept of a Structured Query Language (SQL), but Ellison and his partner did. They created a database program compatible with both mainframe and desktop computer systems, renamed their company Oracle, and found their first customers for the database program, Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the CIA. In 1980, Oracle had only eight employees, and revenues were less than $1 million, but the following year, IBM itself adopted Oracle's SQL for its mainframe systems and for the next seven years, Oracle's sales doubled every year. The million dollar company was becoming a billion dollar company.

Oracle went public in 1986, raising $31.5 million with its initial public offering, but the firm's zealous young staff for the rapidly expanding firm habitually overstated revenues, and in 1990 the company posted its first losses. Oracle's market capitalization fell by 80 percent and the company appeared to be on the verge of bankruptcy. Ellison bit the bullet and replaced much of the original senior staff with more experienced managers. For the first time, he delegated the management side of the business to professionals, and channeled his own energies into product development. The newest version of the database program was a solid success and in only two years the company's stock had regained much of its previous value.

Even as Oracle's fortunes rose again, Ellison suffered a series of personal mishaps. Long an enthusiast of many sports and outdoor activities, in rapid succession Ellison suffered serious injuries while body surfing and mountain biking. Ellison survived major surgery, and continued to race his 78-foot yacht and practice aerobatics in his private jet.

Oracle's fortunes continued to rise throughout the 1990s. America's banks, airlines, automobile companies and retail giants all depend on Oracle's database programs. Oracle has benefited hugely from the growth of electronic commerce; its net profits increased by 76 percent in a single quarter of the year 2000. As the stocks of other high tech companies fluctuated wildly, Oracle held its value, and its largest shareholder, founder and CEO Larry Ellison, had come very close to a long-cherished goal, surpassing Microsoft's Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world.

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