Table of Contents
2. Lawrence J. Ellison himself
2.1 Beginnings and development
2.2 His success
2.3 His behaviour
2.4 His philosophy
3. The American Dream
4. Lawrence J. Ellison and the American Dream
List of illustrations/Acknowledgements
In the following I try to figure out in what way Joseph Lawrence Ellison, is a representative of the American Dream. I got interested in this topic, because Ellison is one of the richest men alive and because it seems to be exiting to find out in what way he represents the American Dream.
First I am going to describe his rise from a rather poor man, who even broke up his studying, to a successful businessman and a millionaire. Further I want to explain the reasons and the circumstances of his very success. As his personal behaviour often seems to be very extraordinary, I am trying to find out, if there is contradiction between his abilities in business and his behaviour or if negative traits of character are an important condition for being as successful as Larry Ellison. In order to point out if Ellison is a representative of the American Dream I am going to summarize briefly the main aspects of the American Dream.
2 Lawrence J. Ellison himself
2.1 Beginnings and development
In spite of the fact Lawrence J. Ellison is one of the richest and most successful men in the world he does not abandon much about his past. He was born in August 17th in 1944 and he had to spend his childhood in rather bad social living conditions. As Michael Wilson points out he just got brief answers when he began asking L.J. Ellison about his childhood in Chicago. His mother Florence was nineteen years old and unmarried. After nine months she gave Ellison to her aunt Lilian Ellison and her husband Louis Ellison. Louis Ellison, an oppressed Russian Jew, fled to America in the early twentieth Century. Once arrived in New York, he traded his hard to pronounce Russian name for Ellison, after Ellis Island. Lilian Ellison was his second wife ,so she had only to bring up Larry. Louis’ children from the first marriage were grown ups.1 Larry had attended Eugene Fields Grammar school in Chicago, before he went to South Shore High School, from where he graduated in 1962.2 The same year he enrolled at the University of Illinois in Champaign. Urbana, but he never got a degree and left his hometown in 1966.3 In 1967 he married his first wife Adda Quinn, who was studying secondary education at that time. Over the next years Ellison did computer-related work for series of big corporations.4
In 1974 when there was still a long way to his success, he got divorced from Adda. 5 After his second marriage with Nancy Elisabeth Wheeler in 1976, he founded Oracle Corporation together with Bob Miner and Ed Oates in 1977.6 One year later his second wife left him after only 18 months of marriage. Nevertheless he did his studies at the university of Illinois, but he was dropped out from college, after he had had some break-ups. Afterwards he had worked for some software suppliers like Omex or Amdahl. Before there was a turning point in Ellison’s life in the 1970’s. He developed the great software-program Oracle, which needed a lot of memory to make it run properly. One day Ellison’s neighbour adapted how powerful this program was. He asked him to create a smaller program, which would not need so much memory. The neighbour offered him much money for developing such a program. Ellison agreed and started working on another smaller program. Barely a year later the program was finished. The neighbour was fascinated. This fact led him to another idea.7
In 1977 he draw the conclusion to found the company Oracle together with his friend Bob Miner and the programmer Ed Oates . Two years later Oracle brought out the first commercial data base system. That was the breakthrough. In 1982 Barbara Boothe married Ellison and they got two children: David, born in January 1983 and Margaret Elizabeth, born in December 1986. Ellison and Boothe got divorced in 1987. Many workers of the first time of Oracle are billionaires now. When Bob Miner died in 1994, his acquirements were appraised on more than 500 billion Dollar. Some years before Miner died, some young men at the University of Illinois finished writing a program that would change the world: the subset of the World Wide Web, first called “Mosaic” was created.8 Although Ellison didn’t see the Internet sooner than any others, he was the first to turn it into a small inexpensive computer. Ellison showed his sense for business and future another time.15
2.2 His success
After his drop out of college he had worked for some companies. In most of the jobs he was a system programmer for IBM mainframes, meaning that he hung tapes, backed up data and generally kept machines running. The work was monotonous so that Ellison spent hours of reading books. From 1973 to 1974, he worked for Amdahl Corporation, a high technology company in California that hoped to take customers away from IBM, the industry giant. In 1974 he lost his job, because Amdahl was running out of money and it laid of personnel. After having lost his job Ellison met the two men who would become important in his life: Bob Miner and Edward A. Oates.
He met them at Ampex, an audio and video equipment company, where he was doing another programming job. At Ampex the three programmers and the rest of the company - where trying to solve a problem in the world of high technology. In the 1970’s it was still impossible to store and retrieve amounts of digital information, because disc drivers had not much capacity and the traditional magnetic tape caused some difficulties in finding what you wanted. As this high technology matter could not be solved, Ellison and Oates left Ampex.9 Ellison started another job at a small technology company called “Precision Instrument Company”. Working on a memory project Ellison took his big opportunity. He suggested Miner and Oates would be writing the software, Ellison would supervise the project from within “Precision Instrument”. The three men put together a bid on the “Precision Instrument” contract in the summer of 1977.
After the programmers Bob Miner, Ed Oates and Larry Ellison had founded the software company Oracle in 1977, they called their first product “ Oracle ” and sold it to various customers. Although Ellison was not the only responsible person, he was the group’s initiator . In the beginning Oracle didn’t run well, but programmers of all companies were trying to create the “VAX” or “ Virtual Address Extension”. The “VAX” was a product that had a seismic effect because it was small enough to fit on “ the top of a lab bench” and powerful enough to perform complex calculations. Briefly said “VAX” was the software for one of the first “notebooks”. Ellison borrowed money to buy “VAX” for Oracle.10 The investment was so worth wile that Oracle sold about $50 million licences to minicomputer users in 1986. In 1979 Ellison and Miner created the first commercial database system that made Oracle to become market leader: This position was supported by the circumstances that Oracle ran on all types off computers. Oracle’s special function was to manage and to coordinate any agency’s data in order to make accounts and supplier lists clearer than by the help of any other program. As Oracle could be handled very easily and there was no need for much memory, it was more often sold than other programs.11 This way Oracle became unique and more successful than other software companies.
Since the company was founded in 1977, Ellison was not only Chairman but also Chief Executive Officer (=CEO) of Oracle. Moreover Ellison improved his career by being one of the first to discover the importance of the “ world wide web ”. If one regards the great effect of the internet today, one can draw the conclusion that Ellison has always had the impeccable nose of business.
Nevertheless Oracle nearly had its total breakdown on 1990. In this year Ellison put very much pressure on his workers. They made many mistakes and the receipts fell very deep. After Oracle had been almost bankrupt. Ellison supervised everything in his company himself in order to avoid another catastrophe for his business.12 In 1992 Ellison sold $709 million dollars worth of software to “VAX” users. In 1994 his friend and one of the star programmers of Oracle Bob Miner died of lung cancer. Miner’s fortune was estimated to 500 million Dollars.13
Five years later Oracle made a capital of 8.8 billion US-Dollars. That is a growth rate of 24% against the previous year. The share in profits for Germany are 801 Billion Dollar. Nowadays Oracle is the second biggest Software producer of the world behind Microsoft. Oracle is guiding database systems and managing solutions. In contradistinction to Microsoft, Oracle hasn’t to fight against the falling stock prices. The Oracle Company is the leading supplier of software for enterprise information management and the world’s second largest independent software company with two major businesses: one aimed at providing the lowest cost information technology, the other at providing business and competitive advantage through high value applications.14
Today his company has got over 43.000 employees in more than 145 countries. In 1999 Ellison succeeded in kicking Bill Gates down from the top of the list which sums up the richest men in the world. Actually Ellison’s business is better than ever before, because many airlines, car producers, even the chemical business, use Oracle’s software. In fact, General Motors, Citibank and the “Deutsche Telekom” are very important customers.15
All in all, Ellison enjoys continual success since he has kicked of some of top managers while he is gaining the respect of his peers and the business community.
2.3 His behaviour
As just mentioned in the introduction of this paper Ellison’s behaviour is supposed to be very controversial. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle , has been in the news quite often lately, not for his outlandish comments, but for his battle with Bill Gates for the title of the richest man in the world. The two tech giants are currently battling it out in the $50 billion range, each changing the world's money title based on the daily performance of their respective companies' stock: Oracle and Microsoft.16 When you concentrate on Ellison as a business man you surely could not find charitable motives in his behaviour and his utterances are at the limit of the high society. Ellison never blames himself in public. Also the newspapers respect Ellison and only describe him as oddball with his favourites for luxury and Japanese lifestyle. This lifestyle is expressed in the following aspects: He owns the expensive Japanese cottage in California, furthermore a military jet, a 60metres and a 100 metres luxury yacht and a Sailing-Race boat to win the America’s Cup.17 All in all if Ellison is the winner of the fight between him and Gates, he will not leave the headlines. For Ellison career is battle and business is war.
2.4 His Philosophy
Mike Wilson spent 16 hours interviewing Larry Ellison and he drew the conclusion that Ellison was a fast and eloquent speaker, but he sometimes moved from subject to subject very quickly without answering any question directly.18 That is why Ellison’s philosophy is described based on two points of view: on the one hand his personal statements and on the other hand the estimations of people he worked with.
First of all he was always convinced to become a millionaire by his own efforts. Even during his first marriage with Adda Quinn, when both partners were earning $1600 together, he was absolutely determined to succeed in business as soon as possible. He thought of himself as a superb technologist and a successful marketer at the same time. Nevertheless his first efforts for Oracle were not based on his technological invention, but on his abilities as a marketer. He recognized that people would not buy Oracle’s software, if they didn’t feel comfortable. So he made them feel comfortable by using two effective trade show tricks: firstly he sometimes talked about his “products” in a negative way to make people think critically and secondly he actually gave a demonstration. For example he set up a personal computer and projected the on-screen image onto a wall, so that people quickly put aside their doubts.19
Moreover Ellison had developed a marketing strategy that could not miss. His idea was to sell Oracle software on the strength of three characteristics: portability, connectability and compatibility. He made these qualities known as the company’s abilities. Although none of these qualities was really new, - portability meant that Oracle software worked on different kinds of machines, connectability meant that users could link Oracle database running on different machines, compatibility meant that Oracle’s software was compatible with IBM’s - Ellison was promising the customers a sort of “technological heaven”.20 His philosophy was to meet the customers’ needs and to make them feel comfortable. So Ellison used the philosophy of a classic entrepreneur by telling people what they wanted to hear and giving them what the needed: being satisfied, but not necessarily the truth. If customers got less than they had expected, they would get something useful anyway. Up to his point Ellison developed a philosophy that made him successful as many other businessmen, but the way he treats his employees is nothing less than unscrupulous. It is characterised by Rick Bennett who had worked in close cooperation with Ellison for a couple of years and had been fired because of a disagreement with Ellison. He said:” Larry is a bloodthirsty troglodyte. He basically uses people and spits them out.21 ” Rick Bennett was only one of Ellison’s employees who was treated so badly and ruthlessly by Ellison. There are many others who were first hired and - if they didn’t support Ellison’s ideas any longer - suddenly were fired.
Considering all these aspects of Ellison’s philosophy you can conclude that he is a brilliant marketer, quicker in realising innovations than his competitors, a story-teller of stories that are not always true and most important of all, someone who does not get into any moral conflict when he lets people drop.
3. The American Dream
What is the American Dream? The American Dream is based on the ideology that everybody can be successful through his own efforts. Originally the American Dream was the desire of a country where life should be better and richer for everyone. That idea was in the mind of the immigrants who fled from Europe because of suppression in the monarchies: They wanted to find a new life without a king or a queen as their ruler. As in America there had not been any monarchy they dreamt of America where everybody could be free.
All in all the American Dream changed a lot from early immigration and settlement, when America was the hope of everybody who was looking for freedom. After America had gained its independence from the British mother country in 1776, America was characterized “to be new” in everything by its inhabitants, because the American was a man, who had left everything behind: prejudices, ancient manners and monarchies. Alexis de Tocqueville, a French politician, expressed another dimension of the American Dream in 1835: “America is a land of wonders, in which everything is in constant motion and every change seems an improvement.”22 Of course, other nations had their dreams, too, but compared with other national dreams the American Dream is absolutely unique, because the settlers had fled the nightmare of European history in order to make a new beginning in their new country. The settlers succeeded in realising their ideas by transforming some parts of the country into fertile farmlands. ( If I consider this topic from my present point of view, I can draw the conclusion that the American Nightmare had its beginning in the same period of time. How far did the Americans accept the native inhabitants as a part of their new country?)
Another important part was played by the Frontier. There were brave and hopeful people, who tried to colonize the “Great West”. They hoped to build a new society where culture should be linked with democracy.23 In opposite to this heroic ideals some of the Americans were supposed to be more interested in material success than in creating a new society. Regarding the original American Dream, it is a fair to assume that the whole dream was based on the virtues that are mentioned in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."24
After having shown the idealistic elements in the character of the American Dream, there is the question when and how did it evolve into a nightmare? Does it mean too much responsibility to make a dream true? Perhaps the matter of power structures should be regarded at first. America is a democracy that had different eras of history. The social equation is complicated by the power of the masses directly to affect leadership and to be affected by it.25 Although not all men can become President, there are many executives in the American system, that can build their own power and reduce the power of others. This basic part of American democracy makes obvious why political leaders often act for non-idealistic, but only selfish motives. As these personal aims often are closely linked with ruthlessness in human affairs, it is easily to explain why the American Dream changed into a nightmare.
You can observe a special development: the more power the Americans got the less they were interested in their ancient values. Although money always had played an important part -not everybody was able to leave his country and to immigrate-, its importance grew rapidly. Of course, there were people who never stopped fighting for the virtues freedom and equality. Martin Luther King explained his “dream”, when he gave his famous speech in 1963. He made freedom and equality realistic goals for the Blacks in America, so that at least for some of them the American Dream became true.26 Nowadays The New American Dream consists only out of material success. Everybody wants to become rich, wealthy, and successful, even if he has to be corrupted, selfish and very ambitious. If this is fulfilled you need much luck and the right opportunity to succeed in business. A switch in the denotation gradually happened. It is hard to say if there is a corrupted American Dream or the American Nightmare.
4. Lawrence J. Ellison and the American Dream
Ellison is no representative of the original American Dream which was based on virtues and moral values. That means he was not persecuted or suppressed by the policy of any monarchic country. He was not forced to immigrate to the United States because he was born there. Further he doesn’t belong to any minority in the United States like the Blacks, the Natives or the Hispanics for example. Born and grown up in usual social living conditions, he broke up studying at the university of Illinois, so that he didn’t have the most important basis for succeeding in business. Nevertheless he was so successful that he is a millionaire now. If we consider the new American Dream as corrupted and only dependent on a person’s wealth, Ellison can be seen as a typical representative of the new American Dream. He has reached all his aims of wealth and success. According to his fortune he behaves in an extraordinary way in order to show that he can afford whatever he wants, because he enjoys demonstrating his wealth. As Ellison had amassed al his fortune in less than twenty years, he wasn’t the man to bury his money in the backyard. He wants to show it. He drives Ferraris, Bentleys, Acura NSX sports cars and last, but not least a Mc Laren sports car that is worth a million dollar, because he is maniac of speed. Later, when he became interested in sailing, he bought a seventy-eight- foot maxi yacht, Sayonara, in which he and his crew won Australia’s Sydney to Hobart yacht race in 1995. Besides he plans to win the America’s Cup, a trophy that he does not have up to now.
Further he spends large sums on airplanes, but he does not only fly private jets, he owns a Cessna and an Italian jet fighter, that he often uses to terrorise the airport of San José by landing his jet there. Finally, his “home”, a replica of Japanese palace, built in the 16th century, cost Ellison 100 million dollars more than the “home” of his rival bill Gates. Since Ellison had been in Japan, when he was working for Ampex, he loves everything Japanese. For example, he gave all his speedboats Japanese names. He read a lot of Japanese literature, especially about the life and the philosophy of the samurais.
Like a samurai he always wants to fight alone and prove everybody that he is the winner in everything he does. It does not matter, if it is in business or in any kind of sports, he must be more successful than his rivals. Being more successful and better than the others seems to be an important aspect of the American Dream today: As the Americans apparently have reached their aim of freedom and equality, they now want to achieve a better life. Earning as much as possible is supposed to be the way to a better life: Shortly said, wealth has become the aim of the new American Dream and the old virtues have disappeared. Ellison gives a very good example for this, Starting as a rather poor man with a small company, he got so rich and so successful that he is one of the richest men alive. There is one question left: How does a multibillionaire keep any sense of values? Ellison himself frankly admits that it is nice to have money available, but the motive for his working and proving himself all the time is not only money. He wants to test himself all the time in order to see how he will handle the matter. Nevertheless being a billionaire and reaching everything he aims at, Ellison can be considered as a real representative of the new American Dream.
After processing information about Ellison’s career and the changement of the American Dream, you get the result that he is a representative of the new corrupted American Dream. All his life reflects the main aspects of the new corrupted American Dream based on material success. There is selfishness, an absolute lack of values and everything depends on the wealth, a person has or has not. As an unconventional thinker Ellison himself points out:” The battle of ideas is over, and the battle of markets has begun.” In my opinion this statement shows the ideology of Ellison and the new American Dream.
At least it would be interesting to find out if Ellison is really happy about his success.
1. American Dreams - American Nightmares, edited by David Madden, Southern Illinois University Press, October 1970
2. English G, Cornelsen, A6 Ausgabe für Gymnasien, Berlin 1991
3. Wilson, Mike: The difference between God and Larry Ellison, Inside Oracle Corporation, New York 1998
1. Wilson, Mike: The difference between God and Larry Ellison, Inside Oracle Corporation, New York 1998, Page 17-19
2. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 19-20
3. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 26
4. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 34-36
5. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 37-38
6. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 42-43
7. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 57-59
8. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 295-296
9. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 57
10. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 78-82
11. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 99-103
12. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 227-228
13. Rackow, Daniel: Facharbeit unter www.hausarbeiten.de Larry Ellison.“His rising success today“ 1.2
15. Rackow, Daniel: Facharbeit unter www.hausarbeiten.de Larry Ellison.“His rising success today“ 1.2
16. American Dreams - American Nightmares, edited by David Madden, Southern Illinois University Press, October 1970 Page 350-351
18. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 352-353
19. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 174
20. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 121-125
21. Wilson, Mike: The difference…,Page 171-172
22. American Dreams - American Nightmares, Page 18
23. American Dreams - American Nightmares, Page 19
24. Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson
25. American Dreams - American Nightmares, Page 33
26. English G, Cornelsen, A6 Ausgabe für Gymnasien Page 19-20
Hiermit bestätige ich, dass ich die Facharbeit ohne fremde Hilfe angefertigt habe.
Unterschrift: Bochum, den 27.02.02
1977 gründeten Larry Ellison und Bob Miner in Kalifornien das Unternehmen Oracle mit dem Ziel, Software zur Vereinfachung und Verbesserung von Geschäftsprozessen zu entwickeln.
Oracle ist das zweitgrößte Software-Unternehmen der Welt und der führende Anbieter von eBusiness-Lösungen für das Internet. Das einzigartige Produktportfolio umfasst die Internet Plattform, Tools und internetfähige Anwendungssoftware sowie darauf spezialisierte Beratung, Ausbildung und Support Services. Als erstes Software-Unternehmen hat Oracle zu 100 % internetfähige Enterprise Software entwickelt: dazu zählen Datenbanken, Server und Enterprise Business Applications inkl. Tools. Oracle stellt seinen Kunden als einziges Unternehmen komplette eBusiness-Lösungen zur Verfügung und deckt damit deren gesamte Wertschöpfungskette vom Front Office (Customer Relationship Management) bis zum Back Office (Enterprise Resource Planning Applications) ab.
Oracle mit Hauptsitz in Redwood Shores, Kalifornien, ist in über 145 Ländern vertreten und hat mehr als 43.000 Beschäftigte, davon etwa 2.000 in Deutschland.
Im Fiskaljahr 1999 (Geschäftsjahresende: 31. Mai 1999) hat das Unternehmen insgesamt einen Umsatz von 8,8 Milliarden US-Dollar erwirtschaftet. Das entspricht einem Wachstum gegenüber dem Vorjahr von 24 Prozent. In Deutschland erzielte Oracle in diesem Zeitraum einen Umsatz von 801 Mio. DM.
Ein Privatjet ist dem Oracle-Chef nicht genug. Nein, mit einem italienischen Marchetti-Düsenjäger terrorisiert er seit Jahren den Flughafen von San Jose im Silicon Valley. Jetzt will er sich noch ein F-18-Kampfflugzeug der US-Marine zulegen.
Eine Flotte aus Bentley, Porsche, Mercedes hat jeder. Der Geschwindigkeitsfanatiker rast zusätzlich mit einem McLaren-Boliden über den kalifornischen Highway 101.
Seine 60-Meter-Jacht Sakura lässt der stets braun gebrannte Sportsmann gerade durch ein 100-Meter-Luxusschiff ergänzen. Mit dem Rennboot Sayonara will der Japan-Fan demnächst den America's Cup gewinnen, die letzte Trophäe, die dem passionierten Segler noch fehlt. Sein Haus, die Replik eines japanischen Palastes aus dem 16. Jahrhundert, darf bis zu 100 Millionen Dollar kosten mehr als die Hightech-Villa von Erzrivale Bill Gates. Ellisons ganzes Leben scheint Wettkampf zu sein. Egal ob er demonstrativ Luxus konsumiert, blonde langbeinige Schönheiten verschleißt, Sport treibt oder sein Unternehmen führt, der dreimal geschiedene Playboy (zwei Kinder) will gewinnen, um jeden Preis. Woher rührt der Drang, es ständig allen zu beweisen? Hinweise gibt die Biografie. Seine Teenager-Mutter gab ihr uneheliches Baby zur Adoption frei. Der kleine Lawrence Joseph landete in einer jüdischen Mittelschichtfamilie in Chicago - bei einem Vater, der ihn für einen Taugenichts hielt.
Na, dem hat er es aber gezeigt. Mit aggressivem Siegeswillen katapultierte sich der Studienabbrecher in die Topliga der Milliardäre. Heute ist der Technikfreak der zweitreichste Mann der Welt - nach Gates. Und den will er auch noch kleinkriegen.
1 Wilson, Mike: The difference between God and Larry Ellison, Inside Oracle Corporation, New York 1998, Page 17-19
2 Wilson, Mike: The Difference..., P.19-20
3 Wilson, Mike: The Difference..., P.26
4 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.34-36
5 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.37-38
6 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.42-43
7 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.57-59
8 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.295-296
9 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.57
10 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.78-82
11 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.99-103
12 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.227-228
13 Rackow,Daniel: Facharbeit 1.2
14 http://www.mcs.cityline.net/german/partner/oracle.shtml verwendet am 03.02.02
15 Rackow,Daniel: Facharbeit 1.2
16 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.350-351
17 http://www.manager-magazin.de/magazin/artike/0,2828,108640,00.html verwendet am 05.02.02
18 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.352-353
19 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.174
20 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.120-121
21 Wilson, Mike: The Difference...,P.171-172
22 American Dreams - American Nightmare, edited by David Madden, Southern Illinois University Press, October 1970 Page 18
23 American Dreams - American Nightmares, P.19
24 Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson
25 American Dreams - American Nightmares, P.33
26 English G,Cornelsen,A6 Ausgabe für Gymnasien Page 19-20