Eye on Oracle

Mar 26 2008   10:36AM GMT

Will Benioff succeed Larry?

Shayna Garlick Shayna Garlick Profile: Shayna Garlick

Salesforce.com chairman and CEO Marc Benioff spent 13 years at Oracle Corp., before leaving the corporation and founding the CRM powerhouse Salesforce.com in 1999. Since then, Salesforce.com has enjoyed much success, including a reported 85% annualized sales growth over the last five years.

So why would Benioff want to return to the company that helped launch his career?

According to Tom Foremski (the same blogger who started the Salesforce.com acquisition rumor), it makes perfect sense for Benioff to do so, and succeed the “very close to retirement” Oracle CEO Larry Ellison when the time comes.

Foremski says that Salesforce.com could grow faster by acquiring Oracle, and that Benioff has the same hard-hitting attitude as Ellison. And, since Ellison is 63, shouldn’t he announce a successor soon?

But there’s one thing we have to remember — this is Larry Ellison we’re talking about.

Take a look at an August 2006 article from Forbes,The extraordinary life of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.”  Even Ellison’s top two aides admit they could never succeed him, if anyone will ever succeed him at all. ( Safra Catz says: “I don’t want the job,” ; Charles Phillips says: “Larry will be here forever. We don’t discuss succession. That’s not my job.”).  

Board Chairman Jeffrey Henley, whose job it actually is, agrees: “There is no successor to Larry, no heir apparent…We discuss the subject, but there is no perfect plan. Larry still wants total control.”

Continue reading, and you’ll see that one person does have a prediction — Benioff, who might even be hinting that he could one day be in the running for Larry’s unobtainable position.

‘”Larry’s personality mandates that he’s in charge, so he can’t have a successor,” says Benioff, who founded Salesforce.com with a $2 million investment from Ellison that today is a 4% personal stake worth $100 million. “But one day he’ll have a revelation, look outside for talent — and it will likely be a former Oracle executive.”‘

How long can Ellison and his staff actually avoid the subject of succession? It should be interesting to see.

2  Comments on this Post

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  • David Bradshaw
    I can't see this happening. I've met Marc Benioff several times and it's always struck me that he's doing a great job at salesforce but also having a really great time doing it. I have no doubt that he could lead Oracle if the job were ever vacant. But I don't see how he could possibly have the same fun, freedom of action and sense of ownership that he has at salesforce. And I think those are the most important forces that drive him.
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  • just me
    I would think Tom Siebel, if he wanted it, would be in the mix. Early Oracle employee, far more successful than Benioff, was running various Oracle businesses back in the '90's (when I worked there he ran DMD, the direct marketing division, which he built into a large operation). He is friends with the old guard (such as Ken Jacobs) and the new. The only question is whether he would want to weigh back in to the fray.
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