The life and career of Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CTO and cofounder, who went from college dropout to the world’s 7th richest person

    Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison is a billionaire with a reputation that precedes him.

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    Larry Ellison, the 79-year-old cofounder of Oracle, is one of the most interesting men in tech.
    Whether yacht racing, buying Hawaiian islands, or trash-talking competitors, he keeps it lively.
    Now, he’s one of the world’s richest people with a net worth of about $152 billion.

    Larry Ellison is the founder and chief technology officer at software company Oracle. Now, he’s also the world’s seventh richest man and has a net worth of $160 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

    The billionaire’s fortunes have surged by $14 billion thanks to spiking demand for generative AI. The windfall puts him ahead of tech execs like Google cofounder Sergey Brin and former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer. 

    The 79-year-old started Oracle in 1977, and decades later he’s still one of the top dogs in Silicon Valley despite living in Hawaii full time — and owning an entire island. Ellison has also been a major investor in Tesla, Salesforce, and even reportedly had a seat on Apple’s board of directors for a while.

    Outside the office, the billionaire boasts an impressive watch collection and indulges in hobbies like yacht racing. His children have made their own names in the film industry, and his son David Ellison is set to become the CEO of Paramount after its merger with his Skydance Media production company.

    Here’s a look at the life and career of Ellison so far.

    Lawrence Joseph Ellison was born in the Bronx on August 17, 1944, the son of a single mother named Florence Spellman.The view of Manhattan from the Bronx.

    ANDREW HOLBROOKE/Corbis via Getty Images

    When he was 9 months old, Larry came down with pneumonia, Vanity Fair reported. His mom sent him to Chicago to live with his aunt and uncle, Lillian and Louis Ellison.

    Vanity Fair reported that Louis, his adoptive father, was a Russian immigrant who took the name “Ellison” in tribute to the place in which he entered the US: Ellis Island.

    Ellison is a college dropout.A view of the campus at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    Ellison went to high school in Chicago’s South Side before attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When his adoptive mother died during his second year at college, Ellison dropped out. He tried college again later at the University of Chicago but dropped out again after only one semester, Vanity Fair reported.

    In 1966, a 22-year-old Ellison moved to Berkeley, California — near what would become Silicon Valley and already the place where the tech industry was taking off.A mainframe computer room in the 1970s.

    H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

    He made the trip from Chicago to California in a flashy turquoise Thunderbird that he thought would make an impression in his new life, Vanity Fair reported.

    Ellison bounced around from job to job, including stints at companies like Wells Fargo and the mainframe manufacturer Amdahl. Along the way, he learned computer and programming skills.

    In 1977, Ellison and partners Bob Miner and Ed Oates founded a new company, Software Development Laboratories.Larry Ellison in 1990.

    James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

    The company started with $2,000 of funding.

    Ellison and company were inspired by IBM computer scientist Edgar F. Codd’s theories for a so-called relational database — a way for computer systems to store and access information, Britannican said. Nowadays, they’re taken for granted, but in the ’70s, they were a revolutionary idea.

    The first version of the Oracle database was version 2 — there was no version 1.Ellison was at the forefront of the tech industry before the dot-com crash.

    Eric Risberg/AP

    In 1979, the company renamed itself Relational Software Inc., and in 1982, it formally became Oracle Systems Corp., after its flagship product.

    In 1986, Oracle had its initial public offering, reporting revenue of $55 million.Oracle’s offering price was $15 a share.

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    As one of the key drivers of the growing computer industry, Oracle grew fast. The company is responsible for providing the databases in which businesses track information that is crucial to their operations.

    Ellison became a billionaire at age 49. Now, he has a net worth of roughly $152 billion, according to Forbes, after racking up $50 billion in gains thanks to Oracle and Tesla stock. That makes him the seventh-richest person in the world.

    Still, in 1990, Oracle had to lay off 10% of its workforce, about 400 people, because of what Ellison later described as “an incredible business mistake.”A plane branded with the Oracle logo.

    Scott Olson / Getty Images

    Oracle reported a loss of $36 million in September 1990 after admitting that it had miscalculated its revenue earlier that year, The New York Times reported.

    It didn’t get the decade off to a great start. After adjusting for that error, Oracle was said to be close to bankruptcy. At the same time, rivals like Sybase were eating away at Oracle’s market share.

    It took a few years, but by 1992, Ellison and Oracle managed to right the course with new employees and the popular Oracle7 database.

    Ellison is known for his willingness to trash-talk competitors.Ellison has often been the subject of Silicon Valley gossip.

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    For much of the ’90s, he and Oracle were locked in a public-relations battle with the competitor Informix, which went so far as to place a “Dinosaur Crossing” billboard outside Oracle’s Silicon Valley offices at one point, Fortune reported in 1997.

    His financial success has led to some expensive hobbies.Ellison spends his billions on real estate, water sports, and more.

    Ian Mainsbridge/AP Images

    With Ellison as Oracle’s major shareholder, his millions kept rolling in. He started to indulge in some expensive hobbies — including yacht racing. That’s Ellison at the helm during a 1995 race.

    He also partly financed the BMW Oracle USA sailing team, which won the America’s Cup in 2010, according to Bloomberg.

    Ellison was an early investor in Salesforce.Marc Benioff was an early mentee of Ellison.

    Stephen Lam/Reuters; Kimberley White/Getty Images

    In 1999, Ellison’s protégé, Marc Benioff, left Oracle to work on a new startup called Ellison was an early investor, putting $2 million into his friend’s new venture.

    When Benioff found out that Ellison had Oracle working on a direct competitor to Salesforce’s product, he tried to force his mentor to quit Salesforce’s board. Instead, Ellison forced Benioff to fire him — meaning Ellison kept his shares in Salesforce.

    Given that Salesforce is now a $267 billion company, Ellison personally profits even when his competitors do well. It has led to a love-hate relationship between the two executives that continues to this day, with the two taking shots at each other in the press.

    The dot-com boom of the late ’90s benefited Oracle.Other companies weren’t so lucky.

    Laurent Gillieron/AP Images

    All of those new dot-com companies needed databases, and Oracle was there to sell them. Although investors lost out in the dot-com crash, Oracle came out of it stronger due to its acquisitions and the demand for software solutions.

    With the coffers overflowing, Ellison was able to lead Oracle through a spending spree once the dot-com boom was over and prices were low.Ellison used the company’s success to bet on other businesses.

    David Paul Morris/Getty Images

    In 2005, for example, Oracle snapped up the HR software provider PeopleSoft for $10.3 billion.

    And in 2010, Oracle completed its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, a server company that started at about the same time as Oracle, in 1982. That acquisition gave Oracle lots of key technology, including control over the popular MySQL database.

    Ellison has also spent lavishly over the years, so much so that his accountant, Philip Simon, once asked him to “budget and plan,” according to Bloomberg.Ellison at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in March 2024.

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    Ellison has expensive taste. Over the years he’s built up an impressive collection of Richard Mille watches, an expert previously told BI. The timepieces start in the six-figure range and can go for over $1 million in some cases.

    In 2009, the billionaire purchased the Indian Wells tennis tournament for a reported $100 million, The Los Angeles Times reported.

    In 2010, Ellison signed the Giving Pledge.Has donated millions to charity with plans to give away billions if he follows through with the Giving Pledge.


    By signing the pledge, Ellison promised to donate 95% of his fortune before he dies. And in May 2016, Ellison donated $200 million to a cancer treatment center at the University of Southern California, Forbes reported.

    Starting in the 2010s, Ellison started to take more of a back seat at Oracle, handing more responsibilities to trusted lieutenants, like Mark Hurd and Safra Catz, then Oracle’s copresidents.Hurd and Catz shared the helm until Hurd’s death in 2019.


    Ellison hired Hurd, a former CEO of HP, in 2010, Inc reported. Catz has made a reputation for herself among analysts for what they describe as brilliant business strategy.

    But Ellison’s spending didn’t slow down. In 2012, he bought 98% of the Hawaiian island of Lanai.He has millions of dollars worth of real estate on the Hawaii Islands.

    Andre Seale/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images; Noah Berger/Reuters

    Ellison founded a startup called Sensei in 2016 that does hydroponic farming and owns a wellness retreat on Lanai.

    He also purchased Hawaiian budget airline Island Air in 2014, before selling a controlling interest in the airline two years later after it struggled financially.

    In 2014, Ellison officially stepped down as Oracle CEO.Hurd and Catz became co-CEOs when Ellison stepped down.


    Ellison handed control over to Hurd and Catz, who became co-CEOs. Ellison now serves as the company’s chairman and chief technology officer. Following Hurd’s death in 2019, Catz became the sole CEO.

    In 2016, Ellison scored a personal coup: the purchase of NetSuite.He made billions off of his negotiations with NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson.

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    Back in 1998, Ellison had made a $125 million investment in ex-Oracle exec Evan Goldberg’s startup business-management software firm, NetSuite. It ended up working out well for Ellison when NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson negotiated the sale of the company to Oracle for $9.3 billion, netting Ellison a cool $3.5 billion in cash for his stake.

    NetSuite investor T. Rowe Price tried to block the deal, citing Ellison’s conflict of interest, but the sale closed in November 2016.

    He’s used his billions in a variety of ways: he invested in educational platform maker Leapfrog Enterprises and was an early investor in the ill-fated blood-testing company Theranos.Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.

    Mike Blake/Reuters

    Ellison has held shares in some of the most recognizable companies, one of which was the infamous blood-testing company Theranos, founded by Elizabeth Holmes. It had a promising future until its flaws were exposed and Holmes received a prison sentence.

    When Steve Jobs returned to Apple as CEO back in 1997, he asked Ellison to sit on the board. Ellison served for a while, but felt that he couldn’t devote the time and left in 2002, according to Forbes. Compensation for his role was an option to buy about 70,000 shares, which would’ve amounted to about $1 million at the time of his departure.

    Ellison owns homes on the East and West coasts as part of a multibillion-dollar real-estate portfolio.The Astor Beechwood Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island.

    Joe Sohm/Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images

    Ellison reportedly owns the Astor Beechwood Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, and a home in Malibu. Ellison also has houses in Palm Beach, Florida and more in a multibillion-dollar real-estate portfolio.

    Both of his two children work in the film industry.Ellison has two children: David and Megan.

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    His daughter, Megan, is an Oscar-nominated film producer and the founder of Annapurna Pictures. The company has produced films like “Zero Dark Thirty” and “American Hustle.”

    Ellison’s son, David, is also in the film business. His company, Skydance Media, has produced movies like “Terminator: Dark Fate” and films in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise.

    After months of discussions in 2024, Skydance Media and Paramount agreed to a deal, creating “New Paramount,” which David will be CEO of. He has plans to “improve profitability, foster stability and independence for creators, and enable more investment in faster growing digital platforms,” the companies said.

    Ellison has a reputation as an international, jet-setting playboy.Ellison and Kahn at the White House.

    (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)

    Ellison has been married and divorced four times. He’s most recently dated Nikita Kahn, a model and actress.

    Ellison was one of the few tech leaders who had a friendly relationship with former President Donald Trump.He spoke with Trump on the phone about Covid and TikTok.

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    Ellison said publicly that he supported Trump and wants him to do well, and hosted a Trump fundraiser at his Rancho Mirage home in February, though he did not attend. The fundraiser caused an outcry among Oracle employees, who started a petition asking senior Oracle leadership to stand up to Ellison.

    Catz, the CEO of Oracle, also had close ties to the Trump administration, having served on Trump’s transition team. 

    Ellison and Trump remained close during Trump’s time in office and reportedly spoke on the phone about possible coronavirus treatments. Trump also supported Oracle’s bid to buy TikTok, calling Oracle a “great company.”

    In December 2018, Ellison joined the board of directors at Tesla, where he’s been a major investor.Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a close friend to Ellison.

    Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

    Earlier in 2018, Ellison described Tesla CEO Elon Musk as a “close friend,” and defended him from critics. When Musk acquired Twitter — now X — in 2022, Ellison offered to invest $1 billion.

    Musk went on to help Ellison reset his forgotten password, biographer Walter Isaacson wrote.

    In December 2020, Ellison revealed that he moved to Lanai full-time.Although his company moved to Texas, Ellison went to the islands.

    Michael Conroy/AP

    The announcement came after Oracle decided to move its headquarters to Austin, leading Oracle employees to ask Ellison if he planned to move to Texas too.

    “The answer is no,” Ellison wrote in a company-wide email. “I’ve moved to the state of Hawaii and I’ll be using the power of Zoom to work from the island of Lanai.”

    He signed the email: “Mahalo, Larry.”

    He left Tesla’s board in August 2022.It looks like Ellison and Musk are still close.

    Getty Images

    In a proxy filing in June 2022, the electric vehicle maker revealed that Ellison would be leaving the board. Since then, he and Musk have appeared to maintain their close relationship.

    Oracle had a record-breaking 2023, and cemented itself in the new age of artificial intelligence.Two decades later, and Oracle is still a key player in tech.

    Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

    Oracle’s shares continued to hit records, CNBC reported. The company proved that it’s not going any where any time soon.

    In 2023, Oracle backed OpenAI rival Cohere.Oracle backed Cohere when it comes to generative AI.

    Kimberly White/Stringer/Getty

    Oracle joined other tech giants, like Salesforce, in backing the tech startup in June 2023. It began offering generative AI to its clients based on tech made by Cohere.

    “Cohere and Oracle are working together to make it very, very easy for enterprise customers to train their own specialized large language models while protecting the privacy of their training data,” Ellison previously said.

    Oracle announced in April that it would be moving its headquarters to Nashville, Tennessee.Ellison said in April that the new Nashville location will be a “huge campus.”

    Malcolm MacGregor/Getty Images

    Despite its big move to Austin only four years ago, Ellison said that Oracle is planning to move its world headquarters to Nashville, Tennessee.

    In April 2024, the exec announced that Oracle has plans for a “huge campus” in Nashville that will one day serve as the software giant’s world headquarters. The company relocated from the San Francisco area to Austin, Texas in 2020.

    “It’s the center of the industry we’re most concerned about, which is the healthcare industry,” Ellison said at the Oracle Health Summit in Nashville, CNBC reported.

    Matt Weinberger and Taylor Nicole Rogers contributed to an earlier version of this story.

    Correction: May 7, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated Larry Ellison’s role at Oracle. He’s the chief technology officer, not the CEO.

    Ellison’s wealth jumped $14 billion after record earnings from Oracle.Oracle, and Ellison, are getting richer thanks to the generative AI gold rush.

    MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Images

    Oracle’s cloud applications business saw its shares spike by 13% in June 2024 after the company posted strong annual earnings due to demand for generative AI, Fortune reported. Ellison, who now serves as Oracle’s CTO and owns about 40% of the company’s cloud sector, got a $14 billion boost to his fortune.

    The company also announced a partnership with AI startup Cohere, enabling its enterprise customers to build their own generative AI apps. “Cohere and Oracle are working together to make it very, very easy for enterprise customers to train their own specialized large language models while protecting the privacy of their training data,” Ellison said during the company’s earnings call.

    Read the original article on Business Insider


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