Ellison & 7 Other Tech Lions Still Roaring - InformationWeek

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9/22/2014
11:40 AM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Ellison & 7 Other Tech Lions Still Roaring

Larry Ellison's non-retirement reminds us of a few other tech industry elder statesmen still in the thick of running their companies.

10 New Side Projects For Larry Ellison
10 New Side Projects For Larry Ellison
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

What do Larry Ellison, John Chambers, Dave Duffield, Jim Goodnight, Sandy Kurtzig, Hasso Plattner, Mark Templeton, and Joe Tucci have in common? Not one of them is retired.

As we reported last week, Oracle's co-founder Larry Ellison is not really "stepping down," as many news outlets misreported; he's really stepping up. Oracle press releases and executives never used the word "retirement." Yes, Ellison is giving up the CEO title, but he has long been above the fray of day-to-day corporate operational management.

Safra Catz, newly named co-CEO, will continue to manage Oracle's finances, and Mark Hurd, the other co-CEO, will continue to manage all sales and service operations. Otherwise, "there will actually be no changes whatsoever" in Oracle's leadership structure, Catz noted. Ellison will continue to set the company's strategy as Executive Chairman, and he'll continue to direct all product engineering "exactly as I have in the past," he explained.

[Want the facts, not the me-too misreporting? Read Oracle Leader Ellison Is Not 'Stepping Down'.]

This non-retirement puts us in mind of a few other tech industry elder statesmen who haven't exactly "stepped down." Some, like Ellison, have backed away from the day-to-day stuff, but several of these 60-plus and 70-plus executives are still CEOs, and all of them are still actively involved in running their companies.

Here, then, is a roundup of tech sexagenarian and septuagenarians, in addition to Ellison, who are still going strong.

John Chambers, Chairman and CEO, Cisco. Chambers, 65, said in 2012 that he expected to retire within two to four years, but the chief of Cisco has yet to name an heir apparent among likely candidates including sales president Robert Lloyd, field operations SVP Chuck Robbins, and services SVP Edzard Overbeek. After stints at IBM and Wang Laboratories, Chambers joined Cisco in 1991 and was named CEO in 1995. He added the Chairman title in 2006, and it would be no surprise to see him retain that position even if he steps down as CEO.

IT elder statesmen, from left, John Chambers, Dave Duffield, Larry Ellison, and Jim Goodnight.
IT elder statesmen, from left, John Chambers, Dave Duffield, Larry Ellison, and Jim Goodnight.

Dave Duffield, Chairman, Workday. Duffield, 73, stepped down as co-CEO of Workday in May, but he's still chairman and continues to be involved in the company's education and government businesses and development of the Workday Student application. Duffield could have retired after selling PeopleSoft, the company he co-founded in 1987, to Oracle in 2005. Instead that same year he co-founded Workday with Aneel Bhusri (now sole CEO) and helped build it into one of the hottest cloud-based application vendors in the industry.

Jim Goodnight, CEO, SAS. Goodnight, 71, is "not the retiring type," CMO Jim Davis told InformationWeek back in 2011. Goodnight co-founded SAS Institute in 1976. Long among the largest privately held software companies in the world, SAS had $3 billion in revenue in 2013. Generous employee benefits

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Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of ... View Full Bio
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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
9/23/2014 | 7:46:32 PM
One possible culprit: Pure Storage
One suspect of stealing EMC's lunch: Pure Storage. The SSD system suppliers are growing fast. EMC has its own product in the field, but some SSD startups are showing strength.
hho927
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hho927,
User Rank: Ninja
9/23/2014 | 12:42:30 PM
Re: These lion are roaring because...
Joseph Tucci brought the same business model, service(network) from Wang to EMC. EMC took most Wang's customers.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/23/2014 | 9:24:09 AM
Re: These lion are roaring because...
Who would you say stole EMC's lunch? That's probably hard to answer given that it's a disparate collection of businesses. I'm guessing the company may be worth more broken up than purchased whole. High-end hardware to Dell (or maybe Lenovo) while the software goes to HP or a higher bidder? It's hard to figure how that one plays out. 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 6:04:15 PM
These lion are roaring because...
Larry's slunk upstairs to the chairman's office. Joe Tucci's EMC was reportedly sounding out HP on a merger last week and Dell on acquiring parts of EMC's storage business. Its stock zoomed up Monday on the prospect that Meg Whitman, rather than Tucci, might be in charge. These lions are graying. They may also be roaring, but it's because somebody stole their lunch.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 4:21:52 PM
Re: Sounds like CISCO and EMC want traditional transitions
I think Cisco could benefit from new leadership.
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 12:05:39 PM
Sounds like CISCO and EMC want traditional transitions
Given Chambers' and Tucci's statements, it sounds like those two are looking for the exits, but not so Ellison, Goodnight, Plattner, and Kurtzig, all of whom founded or co-founded their companies and have a lot invested, psychically and financially, in the futures of their firms. As the eldest of these elder statements, Duffield has curtailed his involvement, and Templeton, the youngest of the lot at 61, has years to go before retirement expectations will build.
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