For the first time since 2014, Oracle will be overseen by a sole CEO. Safra Catz, who had shared the senior leadership role with Mark Hurd until he went on a health leave earlier this year, was named chief executive officer by company founder Larry Ellison.
Hurd passed away in October after falling ill in September, forcing him to step back from the co-CEO role. His death led to widespread speculation about who would assume his responsibilities with names like Don Johnson, Oracle’s head of cloud infrastructure, and Steve Miranda, head of Oracles applications unit being reported as likely candidates.
While the co-CEO structure was uncommon, Ellison divided the duties to give Hurd control over sales, marketing, and services while Catz oversaw operations, legal, and finance. The company held off on naming a successor to Oracle’s top leadership spot following Hurd’s passing but announced Catz would be taking on full responsibility along with second quarter financial results.
“We have no plans for having a second CEO, it was an unusual situation,” Ellison said during a conference call with analysts. “Mark and Safra were a fantastic team, but we have complete confidence in our existing team.”
Ellison will remain as chairman and chief technology officer but will focus on developing his tech firm’s management team with the intent to foster key executives who could be “potential CEOs when both Safra and I retire, which is not anytime soon.”
As a staunch Oracle advocate and savvy businesswoman, Catz is a fierce competitor that wields her influence whenever opportunity presents itself. Catz is Israeli-born and American-bred, she graduated from the Wharton School of Business in 1983 and from the University of Pennsylvania law school in 1986. She started out her career as a banker with firms like Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette before moving on to Larry Ellison’s software company in 1999. From there, it was a quick rise through the ranks – she joined the board of directors in 2001 and became president of the Oracle Corporation in 2004. She served as CFO and became co-CEO with Mark Hurd in 2014.
Catz has been closely linked to the Trump presidency and has been cited as possible candidate for positions within his administration, such as US Trade Representative and Director of National Intelligence. It was reported that she made her views known to the president when she felt the DOJ’s selection process for its $10 billion JEDI contract didn’t fairly consider Oracle
On November 30, Oracle released its second quarter report showing $9.61 billion in revenue which fell short of analysts’ predictions of $9.65 billion, according to financial data provider FactSet. Shares fell 3 percent in extended trading on Thursday after closing at $56.47 in New York but Catz remained steadfast in the face of wavering investor confidence.
“As you can see we had another solid quarter,” Catz stated in a November 30 earnings call. “This quarter, we finished revenue growth within my guidance range and EPS at the high-end. Cloud services and License Support continue to see material growth and given that it represents more than 70 percent of our total revenue, it more than offsets declines in some smaller non-strategic businesses.”
She points to gains made with the company’s Fusion and NetSuite cloud applications businesses – stating that Fusion’s ERP revenues grew 37 percent and NetSuite ERP grew 29 percent. Catz also shared the company would be rolling out their Autonomous Database offering, a system that can operate without human administrators, and cited that the technology had already saved Oracle millions in internal IT costs.
Despite the challenges of transforming a legacy tech company into a top contender in an Amazon-crowded cloud services market, Ellison’s faith in Catz is well-placed. Never one to obey orders without question or turn away from an obstacle, she is uniquely qualified to lead Oracle to its rightful place as cloud-providing industry leader.