Larry Ellison on Bill Gates, potential purchases, and the good old days

November 15, 2007, 1:06 PM UTC
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison presents at Oracle Openworld in San Francisco. Photo: Jon Fortt

Larry Ellison, Oracle’s (ORCL) colorful co-founder and CEO, took questions at the end of his keynote address at the company’s annual OpenWorld conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Below, some of his comments:

In response to a questioner who began by saying he feels good at the thought that when he buys Microsoft products, it benefits the charitable causes that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates supports through his foundation:

“First of all, that’s not true. Let me respond to that. Bill Gates was very generous, and I think everyone appreciates what he did. But he gave a lot of Microsoft (MSFT) stock to the Gates Foundation a long time ago, and the Gates Foundation sold all that stock and converted it into money. So if you think that if you go out and buy a copy of Microsoft Word tomorrow, that money is going to someone in the Andes who is poverty stricken, you’re mistaken. The Gates Foundation has already been fully funded, and the money that goes to Microsoft is not going to the Gates Foundation.”

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In response to a question about which companies Oracle will buy next:

“Go ahead and e-mail me and I’ll tell you, but then if you buy the stock you have to split the profit with me. [Pause. Laughter.] That was a joke, by the way.”

On what will happen once Oracle buys up all of its competitors in the applications software business:

“I wish there was no competition in the application arena, but unfortunately there’s enormous competition. Everything from SAP (SAP), which is substantially larger than we are in the applications business – darn it – to a variety of clever startups in the software as a service area, to specialists in heathcare like Lawson. There’s just very broad-based competition across the applications market. Some of those companies are mature … some of those companies are brand new, clever startups. But even if we buy aggressively for the next 20 years, I’m afraid there’s still going to be more competition than we can deal with effectively.”

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On Oracle’s plans to hire in China:

“We’ve been hiring in China dramatically. In fact, a lot of the Linux support – a lot of our Linux efforts, a lot of our Linux development, a lot of our new initiatives – are taking place in China. So we’re growing our China employee base faster than any other country in the world.”

On whether he enjoyed leading Oracle more in its early startup days, vs. now:

“I’m enjoying it more now. Because as much fun as it was, it was very stressful – you know, when you’re only three weeks from running out of money, and your house is being foreclosed on and all of that. While I enjoyed what I was doing, I’d get home from work at one o’clock in the morning and open up a can of pea soup, put on CNN Headline News, because there was no Internet, see what’s going on in the world. You know, I’d have my soup and go to sleep. You know, startups are very demanding. You work really hard. It’s a lot of fun, it’s very rewarding. But actually, today, where Oracle has a larger shovel, we can take on larger problems than we could when there were just a handful of us. I actually find it more challenging, more interesting, and more fun today than I did back then. Though I would never give up those treasured memories, I’m having at least as good a time now as I did then.”

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