by Thomas Wailgum

What Oracle’s Larry Ellison Has in Common with The Simpson’s Mr. Burns

Oct 16, 20083 mins

Oracle luminary Larry Ellison and The Simpson's megalomaniac Monty Burns are powerful, competitive and much feared businessmen -- though, to date, Ellison has not tried to block out the sun. They also share another commonality: They're both filthy rich.

There’s a classic scene in one episode of The Simpson’s when nuclear power-plant owner and gazillionaire C. Montgomery Burns gravely informs his everpresent assistant Waylon Smithers of bad financial news: “It’s been a very lean year for us,” Mr. Burns says, knowing the exact opposite to be true.

Then, they both yell “Money fight!” and begin chucking piles of cash at the other, giddy as can be.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Larry Ellison was having “money fights” with his assistant these days.


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Mr. Ellison, who recently asked for a 38 percent pay increase and got it (despite objections from some Oracle shareholders), is now the third-richest man in America, and is poised to take home a bonus of $13.6 million for Oracle’s upcoming fiscal year, which excludes his annual salary (around $1 million), options granted by Oracle’s compensation committee, and whatever he decides to exercise in stock options for the year. (For the record, Ellison exercised $544 million in stock options last year, which is not included in his annual compensation figures.)

But just like Mr. Burns’ wealth, there can be some public disagreement on just how much Mr. Ellison actually rakes in in a given year and whether he merits that much compensation.

Mr. Burns
“Excellent.” SOURCE: Copyright 2008 Fox Broadcasting Company

For Oracle’s just completed 2008 fiscal year, an estimate by consulting firm Proxy Governance put Mr. Ellison’s pay package at $83 million. Other estimates put it at $84.6 million. In another instance, Bloomberg estimated that the value of Oracle’s options granted to Mr. Ellison was worth $58.8 million, whereas Oracle estimated that number at $71.4 million.

Nevertheless, Forbes states that Mr. Ellison is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $27 billion, which is a pretty nice neighborhood. Mr. Burns checked in at No. 6 on the Forbes Fictional 15 list, with a net worth of $8.4 billion. (Mr. Burns, at 104 years old, nearly doubles Mr. Ellison’s age, however.)

Larry Ellison
The third-richest American. SOURCE: IDG News Service

So any way you slice it, Lawrence Joseph Ellison and Charles Montgomery Burns reek of wealth.

Mr. Ellison and Mr. Burns also share an overlord-like quality at their companies. Mr. Burns is known for his maniacal control over the workers at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant (offering them a “free beer” policy in place of a dental plan, and hiring and firing them at will). He is also known for his exalted and feared status within the town—good ole Monty once carried out a scheme to block out the sun. (To read why The Simpson’s are relevant to IT management, see “What Your Team Can Learn About Innovation from The Simpson’s.”)

According to Bloomberg estimates, Mr. Ellison holds more than 22 percent of Oracle’s outstanding stock. He also has been Oracle’s public face and a “win at all costs” CEO over the years, known for his ultracompetitive business acumen and tactics. (How’s that lawsuit going, SAP?)

At the recent October 2008 Oracle shareholder meeting, Jeffrey Berg, chairman of Oracle’s compensation committee, noted Mr. Ellison was no ordinary CEO: “I guess as a founder, owner, operator, you can equate him to the owner of a team who can sit up in a skybox and own the franchise.”

Mr. Ellison then predicted, at the shareholder gathering, that Oracle will likely emerge unscathed from the recent financial meltdown and, in fact, may “come out of this downturn stronger than we ever have before.”

And perhaps a little richer, too. Excellent.