Oracle's Second-In-Command Ray Lane Quits

FRAMINGHAM (07/04/2000) - Oracle Corp. President and COO Ray Lane resigned on Friday, though he will retain his position on the company's board of directors.

Oracle confirmed Lane's departure in a brief press release late Friday, but did not cite a reason. Lane was not available for comment.

Lane, who is 53, joined Oracle as COO eight years ago and was named president in 1996.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison will assume the responsibilities of president in the short term, Oracle spokeswoman Jennifer Glass said today. The company has not named a successor, she said.

Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Chris Shilakes said Executive Vice President Gary Bloom and senior executive George Roberts 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 of Burlington Coat Factory in Burlington, NJ. "He called a lot of the shots at Oracle."

Prince sat on a customer advisory board with Lane, and said Lane showed more empathy with customers than other Oracle execs have shown.

The news was generally unexpected, given Oracle's success over the past year, much of which was 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," Shilakes said. "Recently, Lane had been engaged in helping Oracle to form mega-exchanges, such as Covisint with the Big Three automakers."

Last year Lane backed away from at least two potential CEO offers because, he said, he preferred to stay at Oracle.

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

There have long been open disagreements in business strategy between the No. 1 and No. 2 leaders at Oracle.

In the same November interview, Lane told Computerworld Hong Kong that he saw problems with Ellison's new business-unit accountability model.

That model forces each part of the organization -- 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.

"I will tell you that I disagree with it," Lane said at the time.

In Friday's statement, Ellison thanked Lane for his work at the company.

"I am grateful to Ray for all of his efforts. He will be missed. We wish him nothing but the best," Ellison said.

Lane's departure came just days after Oracle's admission last week that it hired a detective firm to investigate three lobbying groups that publicly supported rival Microsoft Corp. during the government's antitrust trial.

Lane was not connected with the incident publicly, and there has been no indication that it played a role in his decision to leave.

(Dominique Deckmyn and James Niccolai contributed to this report.)

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