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9/7/2010
08:49 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: In Hurd's Wake, An Ugly Ending For Oracle's Charles Phillips

Larry Ellison's farewell rationale for Phillips' awkward departure just doesn't add up. And I think Mark Hurd better watch his back.

Larry Ellison says long-time and now former Oracle president Charles Phillips told Ellison 10 months ago that he wanted to leave the company. Ellison further says he asked Phillips to stay through the Sun acquisition, and Phillips agreed.

In that context, Phillips got what he wanted while also helping Oracle manage through one of its most transformative acquisitions, and doing so in a manner consistent with his 7 years (or "29 quarters," as he put it in his brief farewell statement) at the company.

I'd like to believe that. But it smacks of too many coincidences. And in matters of this sort, I don't believe in coincidence. Like most people, I do believe in facts—and here are a few to consider:

FACT: Early this year, Oracle's other president, Safra Catz, indicated in public comments that the Sun integration was zipping along, aided by the 9 months of limbo Oracle endured while the European Union dragged out its approval of the Oracle-Sun merger.

By Oracle's own statements, the heavy-lifting portion of the Sun integration was completed months ago. So why didn't Phillips—who asked to leave in December 2009, according to Ellison—take off sooner?

FACT: Just seven weeks ago, Phillips endured a stunningly public rebuke from Oracle over his comments, made at an industry event, relating to an M&A war chest he said Oracle had assembled for the next five years.

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Not only was the company's clarification of Phillips' remarks condescending and starkly personal, but it was attributed to the head of Oracle PR, who at the time reported up through Phillips in the organization. I believe the remarks came from Ellison himself, and that he was so miffed that Phillips either (a) was just plain wrong on a very sensitive matter, or (b) made an accurate statement but wasn't supposed to talk about it publicly, that Ellison wouldn't even deign to connect his name to the public tongue-lashing of Phillips.

Here's part of the comment, which is unlike any I've seen regarding a sitting executive from his employer:

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