Oracle Faced with Loss of President

FRAMINGHAM (07/07/2000) - Oracle Corp. lost its second-in-command this week when President and Chief Operating Officer Ray Lane resigned. The high-profile executive will retain his position on the board of directors, however, the company said.

Oracle confirmed Lane's departure in a brief press statement but didn't cite a reason for his resignation. Lane wasn't available for comment.

Lane, 53, joined Oracle as its chief operating officer eight years ago and was named president in 1996.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison will temporarily assume Lane's responsibilities, according to Oracle spokeswoman Jennifer Glass. The company hasn't yet named a successor, she said.

Chris Shilakes, an analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York, said Senior Executive George Roberts and Executive Vice President Gary Bloom are likely candidates.

"This could place near-term pressure on Oracle, as Lane had held senior positions at Oracle for the past eight years and was highly regarded" by Wall Street, Shilakes said.

"I think Ray Lane was even more of a guiding force at Oracle than the general public gave him credit for. He will be sorely missed," said Mike Prince, CIO at Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. in Burlington, New Jersey. "He called a lot of the shots at Oracle."

Prince, who sat on a customer advisory board with Lane, said Lane expressed more empathy with customers than other Oracle executives did.

The news was generally unexpected, given Oracle's success during the past year - much of which has been attributed to Lane.

"While Lane and [Ellison] had their differences in the past, we had not heard of any increased friction recently. So the departure comes as a surprise, given Lane's participation and bullishness on the recent earnings call," said Shilakes. "Recently, Lane had been engaged in helping Oracle to form megaexchanges such as Covisint with the Big Three automakers."

In November, Lane told Computerworld Hong Kong that he had received an offer to take over as CEO at Hewlett-Packard Co. and that he had been in talks with Compaq Computer Corp., though he said he received no firm offer from Compaq.

There have long been open disagreements about business strategy between Lane and Ellison. In the same November interview, Lane said he saw problems with Ellison's new business-unit accountability model.

That model forces each part of the organization within Oracle - development, sales and consulting - to be totally accountable for what it delivers, even though other departments may have a large impact on a particular product or service.

In a statement released this week, Ellison thanked Lane for his work at the company.

Dominique Deckmyn and IDG News Service correspondent James Niccolai contributed to this report.

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