Safra Catz: The hardest working person in tech

Oracle chief financial officer Jeff Epstein, who’s only been on the job since September 2008, resigned suddenly Monday afternoon. Fortunately for Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, the right person to take over is already working for Oracle.

The software giant quickly named Safra Catz, who was CFO before Epstein, as the new permanent CFO. Catz is also a co-president at Oracle, serving alongside fellow co-president Mark Hurd. Hmm. Where have I heard that name before? 

Oracle didn’t give a reason for Epstein’s departure. But considering all the executives that have come and gone under Ellison in the past 15 years or so — paging Gary Bloom and Ray Lane and Craig Conway and Marc Benioff and Tom Siebel and Harry You and Greg Maffei and billboard sensation (not in a good way) Chuck Phillips — it should come as no surprise that Epstein was leaving.

Strangely, Oracle’s stock fell more than 1% after hours on the Epstein news. But investors should have no reason to worry since the transition to a “new” CFO as is smooth as you can get.

It’s nothing short of miraculous that Catz has not just lasted this long (she joined Oracle in 1999) but has remained Ellison’s trusted consigliere all this time.

"Safra already has the long-standing confidence of our employees, our Board and our shareholders," said Ellison in a statement. "There is no more logical choice for CFO."

Much was made about how Hurd could eventually take over for Ellison after Hurd was hired by Oracle last year following his ignominious exit as the head ink cartridge at HP in the wake of a sex/expense report scandal. And while Hurd does have CEO experience as a notch in his belt (keep your mind out of the gutter!) I wouldn’t completely rule out the idea of Catz one day taking over Ellison’s baby.

Of course, Ellison probably may never leave the job until he actually shuffles off this mortal coil. And who knows? Maybe Catz is content being the real power behind the scenes. Co-president and CFO? That’s about as much responsibility you can get short of being CEO.

If nothing else, Catz deserves a medal for being able to put up with the enigmatic Ellison for more than a decade. Of course, she could buy her own medal or two. After all, her $36.4 million compensation package last year is worth more than 24,000 ounces in gold at current prices. — Paul

Bill’s number one! Bill’s number one!

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Forbes magazine released its annual list of the 400 richest Americans on Wednesday, and I did a quick write-up for CNNMoney last night.

Per usual, the tech sector made out well this year. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is yet again the richest man in America with an estimated fortune of $54 billion, up from $50 billion in 2009. Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle, clocked in at No. 3 with $20 billion.

The Facebook boys hit a few notable milestones. Founder Mark Zuckerberg, who was No. 35 on the list, saw his wealth rise 245% over the year — the largest percentage increase on the list.

Facebook’s Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin joined the list for the first time. At 26 — 8 days younger than Zuckerberg — Saverin is the new youngest on the list.

Of course, Saverin’s gains were hard-won; he had to sue former BFF Zuckerberg to get credit for helping launch Facebook. Friend request rejected. -Julianne

"Mission Accomplished"

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photo: Colin McDonald

Yup, he went there. On today’s Oracle earnings call — notable for being the first featuring Mark Hurd, who was doing HP earnings reports a scant four months ago — Ellison trash-talked SAP but saved his real fightin’ words for those who would question Oracle’s Sun takeover.

"To quote one of our great presidents, ‘Mission accomplished,’" Ellison declared. "We think it’s going to become more profitable over the fiscal year."

We’ll turn it over to Jon Stewart for a reminder of how well the year went after Bush hailed the end of “major combat operations.” We’re pretty sure Oracle won’t have to fend off insurgent bombings, but you never know — Sun engineers can be feisty. -Stacy

M&A MadLibs! Oracle to buy (insert storage name here)

If you believe all the rumors that have popped up in the past few days since Mark Hurd joined Oracle, the software giant is going to embark on another big acquisition spree.

Gossip-happy traders have spun the following yarns. Oracle may want to buy Brocade. And QLogic. And NetApp. Heck, the only rumor I haven’t seen yet is that Oracle will go completely bonkers and put in a bid for EMC, which currently has a market cap of $41.3 billion.

Will Oracle make a storage acquisition? Seems likely. Should it? Probably, especially if it wants to truly compete effectively with IBM and Hurd’s former employer HP. But investors need to be forewarned. Not even Oracle has enough cash to buy up every storage firm out there.

And as HP and Dell have already shown us with 3PAR, valuations are quickly getting out of whack. There is a lot of froth in the stock prices of the storage tech firms right now.

Some stocks now riding high on takeover speculation could come crashing down to Earth if/when Oracle finally chooses which storage company it actually wants to pair up with. -Paul

It’s good to be king

Mark Hurd routinely drew grumbles from HP’s rank-and-file about the size of his compensation package: The same year he sliced HP salaries by 5%, he took home a pay package HP valued at $30.3 million. And I remember being startled when HP hired him with a $2 million signing bonus plus a $2.75 million “relocation allowance.” Three. Million!? Was he going to move all of Ohio with him?, I wondered.

Luckily for Hurd, he’s headed to the tech company that’s most unapologetic about its lavish salaries. Sure, Hurd will be in the #2 spot, but the good news is that at Oracle that pays about the same as his old #1 spot.

Oracle filed two revealing documents today with the SEC. The first is Hurd’s offer letter, which features a $950,000 annual salary and a bonus of up to $10 million. The second was its proxy form detailing executive compensation for last year. Safra Catz, who will share the co-presidency with Hurd, had a package valued at $36.4 million. Charles Phillips, who is clearing out of Oracle to make way for Hurd, banked $30 billion in salary, bonus and options.

Larry, of course, took home the biggest stash. His annual salary is $250,000, but stock options and other pay that pushed his total package to $70.1 million. That should be able to buy a whole lotta happiness. -Stacy