Longtime Oracle Exec Bids Adieu to Software Giant

SAN MATEO (07/07/2000) - After years of speculation that he was being courted by other high-tech giants, Ray Lane, Oracle Corp. president and COO at Oracle, resigned from the company abruptly this week.

No reason was given for Lane's departure, but his exit comes during a time of transition for the Redwood Shores, California-based database giant, according to observers.

"A lot of things have changed at Oracle in the last year, and Lane has been less critical to the definition and execution of the new Oracle we're seeing," said Jim Pickrel, senior analyst for e-business at Chase H&Q, in San Francisco.

That "new Oracle" has been making a push to transform itself from strictly a database and applications vendor to a broader platform for Internet exchanges, with products such as the Oracle Internet Platform that includes Oracle 8i, Oracle Internet Applications Server 8i, and the Oracle Internet Developer Suite. To that end, the company has made significant inroads into the booming business-to-business market.

In the eight years he was with Oracle, Lane has been credited with playing an important role in the company's growth, although his contributions were often eclipsed by the company's colorful chairman and CEO Larry Ellison. Lane's responsibilities included overseeing the company's sales force and meeting with large customers.

"Larry Ellison has always been extremely aggressive, and he is prone to make ambitious claims," said Martin Marshall, a managing director at Zona Research Inc., in Redwood City, California. "Ray Lane has been the buffer between Larry Ellison and the financial analyst community, the technical analyst community, and the technical press."

Although Ellison will take over much of Lane's responsibilities, analysts agree that Oracle will still need someone to play the role of buffer. According to Marshall, that responsibility will fall to the company's other executives, unless Ellison changes his mind and fills the positions of president and COO himself.

Jennifer Glass, vice president of corporate communications at Oracle, said that the company has no plans to fill the positions of president and COO at this time.

"[Lane's departure] doesn't mean that Oracle is reorganizing into a three-person board," Glass said. "It means that Larry Ellison, as CEO, will be handling the responsibilities of president and COO, along with the management team."

That management team includes Gary Bloom, an executive vice president and Oracle's top marketer; Jeffrey Henley, the CFO; and Safra Catz, an executive vice president, among others.

Lane has been a hot commodity; he reportedly has been considered for top positions at companies such as Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., and Apple Computer Inc.

His departure comes on the heels of bad press for Oracle. One weeks ago, it was revealed that the company had hired a detective firm to investigate three public advocacy groups that backed rival software giant Microsoft during its antitrust trial. That fact is not thought to have played a role in Lane's decision to retire.

IDG News Service correspondent James Niccolai contributed to this report.

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