Oracle CEO Larry Ellison served notice on competitors yesterday but saved his toughest talk for the UBS investment analyst who recently floated the rumor that Oracle would dismiss more than 13,000 Sun employees, or half its total workforce. Ellison called that claim "garbage" that was "highly irresponsible" and then set the record straight: Oracle will be adding employees.The claim of mass layoffs originated from UBS stock analyst Brent Thill and was then picked up by Bloomberg.com. We wrote about this last week in a post called Oracle-Sun Layoff Prediction: Hold Analyst Accountable.
Yesterday, after speaking for about 10 minutes on his vision for Oracle-Sun, Ellison tore into the analyst (not by name) who made the original claim and the various analysts and media who picked up on it without question. In my experience, it was an unprecedented set of comments from a CEO to analysts and the media, but I think it was a brilliant stroke by Ellison because in sharing publicly and angrily his heartfelt reaction to those reports, he let Sun's 27,000 employees know in unmistakable terms that they have his full and unwavering support.
Here's what he said via my transcription of his remarks:
"The last thing I'm going to say is, and I'm sure you've heard, I was very upset to see articles from analysts and in the press saying Oracle's gonna lay off half of Sun's organization. Half the Sun employee base, we're just gonna lay them off. I mean, that's a highly irresponsible thing just to make up and print.
"So I think the people, whoever did that, should be ashamed of themselves. The Sun people went through enough angst without having to read this garbage that you're writing. The truth is we're actually hiring 2,000 people over the next few months to beef up these businesses, and that's about twice as many people as we'll be laying off.
"So we're hiring, not firing. We're not cutting Sun to profitability, we're growing Sun to profitability."
Well said. As we wrote in our post last week about that rumor of imminent mass layoffs:
I wouldn't know UBS stock analyst Brent Thill if I tripped over him but if it turns out he's wrong on his highly publicized report that Oracle will fire 13,500 Sun employees after the acquisition closes, Thill should have to face the music-probably including the loss of his high-level job. . . .
But for Thill to predict that Sun will axe more than 13,000 workers means either one of two things: (a) that he has exceptional contacts within Oracle and/or Sun and that he is basing his report on top-secret but wholly accurate information; or (b) he bought into a rumor and pumped it out to get people talking. Thill didn't get to his current position at UBS by being a lightweight, and he surely must have known that his prediction of mass firings at the troubled company would grab lots of headlines and give him enormous visibility.
So good for Thill-if he's right. But if he's wrong, he will have done extensive financial damage to Sun and Oracle in their ongoing fight to sustain Sun's viability in the face of repeated raids of its customer base by IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell, chronicled by Global CIO in Global CIO: Oracle Trapped By EU Politics As Sun Employees Suffer and Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard Recruits Microsoft To Raid Sun's Customers.