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By | Gavin Clarke 22nd September 2014 12:01

Bill Gates, drugs and the internet: Top 10 Larry Ellison quotes

'I certainly never expected to become rich ... this is surreal'

When it comes to soundbites, Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison is a pro. Reporters show up not just to hear what he says, but how he says it.

Bill Gates, Microsoft, SAP, IBM, cloud, yachting, his own phenomenal success – all have been subject to Ellison's barbs and meditations.

Scheduled or off-the-cuff, his words turned a conference call with Wall Street, a stuffy Valley dinner, or an open mic at his company's OpenWorld conference into the kind of affair where his PRs rocked on the edge of their seats in terror.

Ellison was a refreshing change in an era of earnestly scripted startups and Goldman-Sachs-class CEOs scared of their shadows. Here are 10 of Ellison's best lines from his time as Oracle CEO.

On the internet, in 1998:

If the Internet turns out not to be the future of computing, we're toast. But if it is, we're golden.

On why Bill Gates isn't as clever as Bill Gates thinks he is:

Bill Gates wants people to think he's Edison, when he's really Rockefeller... though I wouldn't mind being Rockefeller either. But referring to Gates as the smartest man in America isn't right. I'm not the fourth smartest man in America. Wealth isn't the same thing as intelligence.

On the decision to pay private investigators to rummage through Microsoft's rubbish bins during the antitrust trials:

Microsoft is welcome to come investigate us and so are you guys... We don't do this kind of stuff. We don't compete that way. We will send all of our garbage to Redmond and they can go through it.

The madness of cloud computing:

The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we've redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do. ... The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion. Maybe I'm an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It's complete gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?

On Hewlett-Packard for forcing his friend Mark Hurd out as CEO:

The HP board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago... That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn't come back and saved them.

On HP's decision to replace Hurd with Leo Apotheker:

I'm speechless... HP had several good internal candidates...but instead they pick a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP.

On the Network Computer (NC), which was intended to dislodge the PC, Windows and Microsoft's market dominance (it failed):

The NC is clearly part of our strategy to dethrone Microsoft.

On SAP's development of in-memory database Hana:

When SAP, and, specifically Hasso Plattner, said they're going to build this in-memory database and compete with Oracle, I said. God, get me the name of that pharmacist, they must be on drugs.

On the value of open source:

The great thing about open source is nobody owns it - a company like Oracle is free to take it for nothing, include it in our products and charge for support, and that's what we'll do. So it is not disruptive at all - you have to find places to add value. Once open source gets good enough, competing with it would be insane. Keep in mind it's not that good in most places yet. We're a big supporter of Linux. At some point we may embed Linux in all of our products and provide support.

On the success of one, er, Larry Ellison, in conversation with The Smithsonian, 1995:

When I started Oracle, what I wanted to do was to create an environment where I would enjoy working. That was my primary goal," he told the Smithsonian back in 1995. Sure, I wanted to make a living. I certainly never expected to become rich, certainly not this rich. I mean, rich does not even describe this. This is surreal.


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