In January, Oracle Corp. maestro Larry Ellison did two things that shocked the IT industry: He stepped down as company chairman and became CEO, and he said it was OK for customers to integrate his company’s business applications alongside those of other vendors.

The first might have something

to do with facing a stricter corporate governance atmosphere. But the second was heresy. For years Ellison has been telling corporations that running best-of-breed environments is like opening your windows and tossing out millions of dollars. Instead, they should be running all-on-one apps like Oracle’s E-Business Suite.

But as Matthew Symonds details in this lengthy tome, Ellison’s always hunting for a way to ensure corporations build around his applications.

Part biography and part corporate history, some players (including Ellison) are quoted too extensively. Still, it’s an interesting look at how a software giant was created.

Symonds’ hook is that he let Ellison look at the copy before print and footnote with any remarks he wanted.

The result is irritating and disrupts the flow. Ignore Ellison’s defensive bleats and mea culpas and plunge into the corporate knife-wielding. Those wanting the inside scoop on how president Ray Lane got it will be rewarded. “”I’m not confrontational,”” Ellison says of that event, “”but I am pretty calculating. This was calculated.””

The book argues that Ellison swung from doing everything to delegating much to Lane, then snatching control back as Oracle swung from boom to near bust and back to boom again.

CFO Jeff Henley, now the board chairman, worries that Ellison is no longer delegating. “”There’s a danger that he’s trying to control everything so tightly himself that he’ll stifle the growth of the company,”” he says.

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