Larry Ellison Doesn’t Play Chicken

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Larry’s Ellison, the founder and CEO of Oracle (NASDAQ:OFCL) does not make idle threats. He does not have to. In most games against his competition he holds the majority of the cards. He has taken over a number of businesses in his sector of the tech world. Those that resisted were taken over anyway. The management of PeopleSoft learned that lesson the hard way.

It is difficult to argue with Ellison’s track record as an aggressive manager of his own company and his aggressive stance in buying growth through acquisitions. Oracle’s stock is up 80% over the last five years. The DJIA is flat.

Ellison indicated to EU antitrust regulators that if they continued to hold up Oracle’s buyout of Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA) that he would not be responsible for the consequences. Sun is losing sales. Ellison has no interest in buying damaged goods. Sun’s revenue is falling and that means its expenses will have to be reduced as well.  Today, the smaller company said it will cut 3,000 jobs. If the EU means to play chicken with Ellison as it works through its investigation, he is willing to cut every worker at Sun to prove his point. Sun was losing $100 million a month according to Oracle estimates.

A number of American companies have been timid about dealing with EU regulators. Antitrust officials for the region effectively destroyed plans for GE (NYSE:GE) to buy Honeywell (NYSE:HON). They will undoubtedly take months to review the joint venture between Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT).

The EU officials have not seen a CEO like Ellison. He is willing to use a scorched earth policy to prove his point by using Sun as his current example. Oracle in investing nearly $6 billion net of cash to buy Sun. His actions may seem irrational, but he is not a typical CEO. He afford to appear not to care what it takes to win

Douglas A. McIntyre