Despite all the trash-talking, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff says he still loves Larry Ellison

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison have one of the most fascinating bromance relationships in Silicon Valley.

Benioff started his career at Oracle and was Ellison’s top lieutenant, becoming the company’s youngest VP at age 26. Ellison was also one of the first investors in Salesforce, long serving as Benioff’s closest business partner and mentor.

But the relationship took a sharp turn when Benioff discovered Ellison was secretly building a Salesforce competitor, all the while sitting on Salesforce’s board. The rivalry reached its peak in 2011 when Ellison booted Benioff from speaking at Oracle’s OpenWorld show at the last minute.

The two still continue to take swipes at each other openly in the public. Benioff recently told us that Oracle’s “scrambling” for growth with its $9.3 billion NetSuite acquisition. Ellison, in return, has made a comment implying Oracle could beat Salesforce to the $10 billion revenue mark.

But despite all this, Benioff says he still loves Ellison, according to an interview with Bloomberg. In fact, he says it was Ellison who taught him these things, and the constant back-and-forth is just part of the game, pointing out their 30-year relationship is “far more eternal and enduring.”

He said:

“Business is a lot like tennis. You get on the court with your friends, you play as hard as you can, you get really upset, you say crazy things, you go off the court, you go and have lunch and have a glass of wine and remember how much you love them.

I love Larry Ellison, he’s a great mentor to me, he’s been a great friend, and probably there is no one in the industry who has done more for me than Larry Ellison, and I’m very grateful to him.”

Benioff and Ellison’s rivalry will be put on full display in the coming weeks when both Salesforce and Oracle will hold back-to-back, week-long events in downtown San Francisco. Oracle’s OpenWorld will run from September 18 to 22, while Salesforce will have its own annual conference Dreamforce from October 4 to 7.

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