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No Paper Lion: Ellison Eyes NFL Franchise For L.A., Report Says

With billions in the bank, the Oracle chief would find the financial challenges of an NFL team to be a snap compared with winning over Wall Street analysts.

Apparently, Larry Ellison--who may be looking for new competitive outlets as his battle with PeopleSoft Inc. winds down--has a different definition of fantasy football than the rest of us.

Quoting unnamed sources, the Los Angeles Times has reported that the Oracle CEO has had preliminary talks with the National Football League about using his riches to bring football back to Los Angeles by purchasing an existing team and moving it to Southern California, which has been without a team since 1995.

How is it that the possibility of Ellison rubbing elbows professionally with Al Davis, the Machiavellian Oakland Raiders owner, wasn't raised earlier? As the rumors of Ellison's flirtation with the NFL fly, the key question isn't why, but when. It would appear to be a match made in heaven: Instead of satisfying his competitive juices in a stately corporate setting--such as a courtroom--Ellison can enter a world where violence, hyperbole, and the art of crushing your opponent are a formalized weekly ritual. And with billions in the bank, he'd find the financial challenges of an NFL team to be a snap compared with winning over Wall Street analysts.

Oracle and the NFL aren't commenting on the development, but one key Oracle watcher says the combination of Ellison and the NFL makes sense. "Why not?" asks Charlie Di Bona, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. "He's certainly created a lot of shareholder value over the years, so he's no paper lion. He's earned the right to do what he wants to do with his money."

Calling Ellison "a guy with almost boundless energy," Di Bona says he has no concerns that the distraction of owning an NFL team would pull Ellison too far away from Oracle. "Everybody complains about Larry's meddling, and then they complain about him not being involved enough," Di Bona says. "He's a substantial Oracle shareholder, so I don't think he's going to disappear completely."

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