Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam
This week San Francisco achieved Peak Ellison; we may never see these levels again. It's been all Larry, all the time here in the little town by the bay InfoWorld calls home. There's nowhere to go from here but down, and possibly out.
First, of course, there was the Oracle OpenWorld show, which invaded the Moscone Center and several city blocks down the street. At the same time, the America's Cup final -- featuring Oracle Team USA -- was playing out at the San Francisco Marina, a few miles away.
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That contest took a dramatic turn when Ellison's yachtsmen scored a stunning upset over Emirates Team New Zealand, thanks to hard work, pluck, determination, and roughly $100 million of Uncle Larry's money.
Shortly before he was scheduled to deliver the OpenWorld keynote last Tuesday, the Big L blew off speaking to the assembled thousands so that he could watch his boat jibbing its way across the bay. As InfoWorld's Caroline Craig notes:
The Oracle CEO's no-show for Wednesday's OpenWorld keynote speech, announced 45 minutes after he was supposed to appear on stage, predictably left attendees fuming and did little for Oracle's customer relations. "While Oracle asks customers to prioritize its products over competitors, Ellison made the decision that racing, his passion and hobby, is more important than customers," said analyst Michael Krigsman of consulting firm Asuret.
He's a man of the people, that Larry. Of course, by "people," I mean the ones who truly matter: billionaires.
Poseurs and hosers
In an oddly synchronous occurrence, the October 2013 issue of Vanity Fair served up a feature story about the high-tech gazillionaires who've descended upon the city's Pacific Heights neighborhood like a pack of overprivileged and under-pedigreed mongrels. The article gushes about the excesses of the Grooveau Riche -- Mark Pincus (Zynga), Jonathan Ive (Apple), Marc Beniof (Salesforce), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo), Jeremy Stoppelman (Yelp), and David Sacks (Yammer), to name a few -- all of whom have bought mega-million-dollar mansions on the bluff overlooking Alcatraz. But it saved its very worst for Ellison, citing Trevor Traina, "San Francisco's undisputed social king":
The first tech giant to arrive was Oracle's Larry Ellison, in 1988. He paid $3.9 million for the William Wurster house right next to the Gettys -- a mere pittance for him, to be sure, and just one of his dozens of properties. "He ruffled every feather," says Traina. "[Ellison] essentially became 'the Wurster-minator.' He tore out the entire house except for the courtyard, and then he built this very modern house. People were extremely upset."
Ellison didn't make any more friends when he raised hell about a neighbor's redwoods that were obstructing his views of the bay and harming his property value, he said. He took the couple to court, and they ended up cutting the tops of the trees in the undisclosed settlement. Some bad blood followed Ellison to the Gold Coast when Nicola Miner -- daughter of the Oracle co-founder Robert Miner, with whom Ellison had clashed -- bought across the street from him and erected on the terrace a nine-foot robot sculpture which you can't help but notice is male, due to the steel gas-pump nozzle and hose he has for a penis. It's aimed directly at Ellison's house.
My advice: If you plan to read the rest of that article, bring a vomit bag. No, wait, bring two vomit bags. It does tend to make one nostalgic for the good old days of the guillotine.