Oracle’s Safra Catz had been co-Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with Mark Hurd since September 2014. On October 18, 2019, Hurd died at the age of 62. He was known as the leading force behind Oracle’s sales, customer and technical support, business development, and marketing team. Oracle’s co-CEO structure allowed Catz to be the dominant force behind finance, M&A, legal, and human resources – traditionally considered the “back end” of a company. Catz is the financial wizard at Oracle and the mastermind behind Oracle’s economic strategy. She has been rightfully called “The Enforcer.”
This division of executive functions allowed the co-CEOs to specialize in their respective strength areas. Hurd would handle the “front end,” often appearing in the limelight for press interviews, speaking on stage, and socializing with customers. While Catz has intensely maintained a private identity for an executive, she would be subject to more public visibility if she took the helm as sole CEO. Between Catz’s experience as a trained lawyer, former investment banker, and as a 20-year Oracle veteran, she may be the ideal leader for Oracle as it makes a big push to take on Amazon, Microsoft, and Google within the cloud.
Larry Ellison, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), former CEO, and founder of Oracle, oversees engineering and product development, but still maintains a final say with respect to executive decisions. He has noted that he is not interested in being CEO again. Ellison gave Oracle’s board five internal candidates to be considered for the next CEO.
One of the named candidates is Steve Miranda, Executive Vice President of Oracle Applications Product Development at Oracle. Additionally, Don Johnson, Vice President of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, and Thomas Kurian, Oracle’s former President of Product Development, now CEO of Google Cloud, are being considered. Two other contenders, Dave Donatelli, Executive Vice President for Worldwide Sales and Marketing Strategy, and Edward Screven, Chief Corporate Architect at Oracle, are also in the mix.
Although one of Ellison’s five named candidates could potentially rise to co-CEO with Catz, it stands to reason that Catz has more experience as a leader. She has been in the CEO role since 2014 and has the business acumen, legal knowledge, and leadership skills to shine as sole CEO. Some even describe her as “brilliant, [and] tough as nails.” Oracle will need to adapt quickly during this critical stage – with the loss of Hurd – and appoint a leader that will keep the company relevant in a fiercely competitive technology landscape.