Mark Hurd Explains Why Oracle Needs Two CEOs

Oracle co-CEO Mark HurdFlicker/Oracle PROracle co-CEO Mark Hurd

The tech world is still stunned that after 37 years, Larry Ellison is no longer CEO of the company he founded, Oracle, even though his change in job title is largely symbolic.

His top two executives, formerly known as presidents, are now co-CEOs, while Ellison has become executive chairman and CTO. The trio has insisted that this change in titles will pretty much not affect anything. All of them will keep doing the jobs they were already doing. Co-CEO Safra Catz even said point blank, “There will actually be no changes, no significant changes.”

But at a press conference on Monday during Oracle’s big customer conference happening this week in San Francisco, Mark Hurd offered a better explanation.

When a journalist asked why Oracle needed two CEOs to replace Larry Ellison, Hurd explained, “We’re a big company. This is bigger than the salesforce. It’s bigger than Safra and me. Bigger than Larry, Safra and me. … It’s the development team, other teams. We have over 130,000 people. We need a lot of leadership in our company.”

We can’t help but wonder if the co-CEO plan is really a years-long job interview between Catz and Hurd. Ellison is 70, and though he shows no signs of slowing down or retiring, this is a first step in a succession plan. When that retirement day comes (when he’s 75? 80?), perhaps one of them may have emerged as the ultimate single CEO.

That would be a very Ellison-like way of finding his replacement. Ellison says that the thing that keeps him going and motivated is competition.

“What drives me is this constant testing of limits,” he told attendees at a customer conference, earlier this year. “I’m addicted to winning. The more you win, the more you want to win.”

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