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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison steps down

It’s the end of an era at Oracle, as CEO Larry Ellison has been appointed executive chairman and CTO of the vendor, with co-presidents Safra Catz and Mark Hurd named co-CEOs.

“Safra and Mark will now report to the Oracle Board rather than to me,” Ellison said in a statement Thursday. “All the other reporting relationships will remain unchanged. The three of us have been working well together for the last several years, and we plan to continue working together for the foreseeable future. Keeping this management team in place has always been a top priority of mine.”

Oracle’s announcement came without warning as it also released first-quarter earnings results.

Catz will remain in charge of manufacturing, finance and legal operations, while Hurd continues handling sales, service and global business units, according to a statement.

All software and hardware engineering will remain under the oversight of Ellison.

Ellison declined to go much further than that during a conference call Thursday.

“Mark and Safra have done a spectacular job and deserve the recognition of their new titles,” he said. “I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing over the last several years, they’re going to continue doing what they’re doing over the last several years.”

Hurd also weighed in briefly on how he plans to conduct his new role. “I want to stay closer to the action, not get farther away from the action,” he said.

The news didn’t seem to worry Oracle investors much, at least for now. Its share price rose $0.41 to $41.55 in after-hours trading.

Thursday’s stunning announcement came not long after Ellison’s 70th birthday and shortly before the company’s annual OpenWorld event, where Ellison is expected to play a major role. While the industry has long speculated about whether Ellison would ever retire from Oracle, until now he has kept his plans closely held.

Ellison’s many outside interests, such as his purchase of the Hawaiian island Lanai, his many palatial homes and his victorious America’s Cup sailing team, had only served to ramp up speculation about his future with Oracle.

At the same time, Ellison is known for keeping close tabs on Oracle’s product development, something he’ll apparently continue to do as CTO.

Ellison “guided Oracle through some remarkably choppy technological and economic rough waters, and has done so with remarkable success and continuity. He is quite a character, but he is also an extremely bright and innovative businessman,” said Charles King, head of Pund-IT in response to the news that Ellison is stepping aside as CEO.

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