Oracle shuffles board

Oracle supreme Larry Ellison is to give up some of his power with the announcement today that he is to hand over the responsibilities of chairman to the company’s chief financial officer Jeff Henley.

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By  Peter Branton Published  January 13, 2004

Oracle supreme Larry Ellison is to give up some of his power with the announcement today that he is to hand over the responsibilities of chairman to the company’s chief financial officer Jeff Henley. Ellison, the founder of Oracle, was previously chairman and chief executive officer of the company. While he is keeping the latter role Henley, who has been Oracle’s CFO for nearly 13 years, has now been elected chairman of the Board. He will remain CFO until a replacement is appointed, the company said. The separation of the two roles is likely to please corporate watchdogs and large institutional investors, who tend to be wary of too much power being invested in one person. In the UK for instance, it is now commonplace for the two offices to be held by separate individuals. While the US lags behind in this practice, corporate governance has become more of an issue post such scandals as Enron. “Jeff Henley is one of the most respected executives in the technology industry,” said Ellison in a statement announcing the switch. “He’s an expert on corporate governance and accounting. Jeff’s knowledge and experience ideally qualify him to be our new Chairman. I’m looking forward to working with Jeff for years to come.” Oracle has also made two senior executives, Safra Catz and Charles Phillips, presidents of the company, with each reporting directly to Ellison. However, it remains to be seen whether the various changes will answer one of the biggest criticisms investors have of Oracle’s management, namely the lack of a clear successor to Ellison himself. Potential successors, such as former senior executives Ray Lane and Gary Bloom, have left the company in recent years, allegedly over concerns about Ellison’s reluctance to share power. Given that Ellison is a lover of dangerous sporting events, almost losing his life in a yacht race in 1998, the issue of a successor has attracted a lot of attention in recent years.

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