Still No. 1, and doing what he wants

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Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison

It is good to be the king. It is even better to be Larry Ellison.

Most of us spend much of our lives thinking that we should do the right thing, or worrying that we didn’t do the right thing, or trying at long last to finally do the right thing. Mr. Ellison, the fifth-richest person in the world and the Chief Executive with the highest total compensation in 2013, appears burdened by no such concerns.

In a Silicon Valley filled with entrepreneurs who insist that they rise with the dawn solely to help humanity, he makes clear that he is out for himself. It’s refreshing, kind of.

In September, the America’s Cup race took place in San Francisco. This was Mr. Ellison’s baby. He was the defending champion as well as the promoter, who had sold the event to the city. September also brought Oracle OpenWorld, the conference devoted to Mr. Ellison’s other baby, Oracle Corp., the source of his $50 billion fortune. The high point was to have been Mr. Ellison rallying the faithful in San Francisco’s convention centre with an afternoon keynote. Except that a crucial race was going on.

Silicon Valley is the land of those who style themselves as rule breakers, but few would be so bold as to blow off thousands of paying customers of their core business so they could indulge a hobby. For one thing, the blowback from social media would be huge and unpleasant.

Mr. Ellison, 69, does not seem to have given it a second thought. Forty-five minutes after his speech was scheduled to begin, the faithful were told to forget it: Mr. Ellison does what he wants, and he wants to be out on a boat in the bay, watching that $100 million investment pay off in a come-from-behind victory.

There was some grumbling but much more shrugging. What would you expect from a guy who in the early 1990s dated three Oracle employees at the same time when the right thing would have been to date none?

Something else Mr. Ellison wants to do: get paid a lot. His compensation last year, according to the Equilar 100 CEO Pay Study, was $78.4 million, most of it in stock option awards. The total figure is more than double that of the second-ranked executive, Robert A. Iger of Disney, and triple that of the third-place finisher, Rupert Murdoch, no slouches themselves at bringing home the bucks.

Shareholders of Oracle are finally getting grumpy. They voted against Mr. Ellison’s pay package a few weeks after his team triumphed again in the America’s Cup.

Despite all the money Mr. Ellison spent on the America’s Cup, as well as on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, he still owns roughly a quarter of Oracle, which is about what he owned 20 years ago.

In the early days of Oracle, back when Silicon Valley titans were still paid on a human scale, Mr. Ellison heard about a company offering fighter plane rides for a few thousand dollars. An aviation buff, he tried to entice Bob Miner, a co-founder of Oracle, to come along. Miner, famous for his frugal ways, nixed the idea.

A revolution in Silicon Valley may be edging a little closer — there are bona fide protesters now, who vomit on tech-company shuttle buses and dress in clown costumes to make a point about inequality — but Mr. Ellison sails on. — New York Times News Service



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