> Name: Larry Ellison (Age: 67)
> Title: Founder and Chief Executive
> Shares: 22.4% of company’s shares
Larry Ellison, who founded Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) in 1977, has thrashed his competition in the global enterprise software industry, holding off challenges from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), SAP (NYSE: SAP) and a number of other companies. These companies would like to increase the part of their businesses that sell hardware and software to large businesses and governments. Ellison has made a number of shrewd buyouts, including Sun Microsystems, which increased Oracle’s business in Java software and the server market. The most powerful part of Oracle’s earnings engine is the license fees it charges its customers. The fees offer recurring revenue streams that can last for years. Not shy of exercising his control in the company, Ellison has rotated a number of people in and out of the number two position at Oracle. Its most recent president is disgraced former Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) CEO Mark Hurd. Ellison made a public statement about how foolish the HP board was to fire a talented executive, and then snatched him up within a matter of weeks. Ellison has several extremely expensive hobbies, including the support of an entry in the America’s Cup yacht race. His boat won the most recent competition.
> Name: Brian Roberts (Age: 52)
> Title: Chief Executive, Chairman and son of founder
> Shares: Owns or controls 100% of Class B voting shares
Brian Roberts, like a number of CEOs who control the voting shares of their companies, is the son of the founder. Ralph Roberts, who is 92, cobbled together a number of small cable companies as the industry grew from largely a rural and suburban business to one that serves large cities. Comcast, which was founded in Mississippi in 1967, now has 48.9 million video, high-speed Internet, and voice over IP customers. Comcast bought a controlling interest in NBC Universal from General Electric (NYSE: GE) last year. The company is now only one of the largest distribution networks in the United States, but it is also one of the largest content producers because of NBC. The government struggled with potential “monopoly” problem when it approved the transaction. The cable industry used to be a de facto monopoly because cable companies controlled discrete regions of the country. Now, however, AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) have laid fiber in front of tens of millions of homes so that they can compete with cable companies in the broadband Internet and video markets. Comcast must also contend with improved technology for satellite TV, which makes these services more competitive with cable.
Name: Andrew Mason (Age: 31)
Title: Chief Executive Officer and Cofounder
Shares: 41.7% of Class B voting shares
Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN) is widely considered the most poorly run of the Web 2.0 IPOs. The online coupon company has to restate earnings for its most recent quarter because of a “miscalculation” of its customer refunds. It has cut the original revenue statements by $14.3 million. The company admitted it has a “material weakness” in its financial reporting process, a tremendous warnings sign about the quality of a company’s management. This is not the first time Groupon had to restate its financials. It had to do so before its IPO as well because of SEC and potential investors challenged how it accounted for sales. Andrew Mason has been able to insulate himself from all of these catastrophes at least as far as his job security is concerned. Mason and two other cofounders, Executive Chairman Eric P. Lefkofsky and Bradley A. Keywell, own 100% of the voting shares. SEC filings directed to by the company to shareholders say this stock ownership “limit your ability to influence corporate matters.” What is at risk for Mason is his fortune. Groupon’s shares have dropped from a post-IPO high of $31.14 to just over $10 recently.
> Name: Jeffrey Weiner (Age: 42)
> Title: Chief Executive Officer
> Shares: 5.9% of voting shares
LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) has done a good job convincing Wall St. that its professional social network has strong longer term prospects. From a post-IPO low of $55.98, shares have risen to more than $108. LinkedIn’s 2011 revenue was $522 million, up from $243 million the year before. Net income attributable to common stockholders rose from $3 million to $12 million. Growth rates are not the only thing that shareholder likes about LinkedIn. The company makes money from its more than 150 million members in two ways. LinkedIn sells its products online but also has a sales force that sells and markets products directly to companies. The revenue between these two businesses is nearly equal, which gives LinkedIn a diversity of sales that other social networks like Twitter do not have. CEO Jeffrey Weiner benefits from his relationship with the company’s largest shareholder, Reid Hoffman. Hoffman owns 45.4% of Class B voting shares. SEC filings by LinkedIn call his holdings as having a “significant influence over the management and affairs of the company.” Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur who made a fortune as a senior executive at PayPal. He also sits on the board of online game company Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA).
Douglas A. McIntyre