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Profile of America’s Cup Sail Racer Larry Ellison

Hoping to Lead the BMW Oracle Team to Victory in the 33rd America’s Cup


Profile of America’s Cup Sail Racer Larry Ellison

Courtesy BMW Oracle

Larry Ellison hopes to lead the BMW Oracle Team to victory in the 2010 America's Cup sailing race in Valencia. Said to be the fourth richest person in world, Ellison has always exhibited a level of drive that has propelled him to success in both his business ventures and his sailboat racing. He is best known now as the founder and CEO of the Oracle Corporation, now the largest business software company in the world. Among sailors, he is known as a fierce competitor who likes to win—and has done so repeatedly in his maxi-class boat. He now intends to bring the America's Cup back to the U.S.

Ellison's intense confrontation with life includes mountain biking, surfing, driving fast cars, and flying his private jets (including fighter jets). He likes big sailboats, owns a yacht over 450 feet long, and lives on a huge estate in California. Owning almost a fourth of Oracle, recently valued at over 20 billion dollars, Ellison can afford to live large. He is also known to have made charitable donations over $150 million in a single year.

Biographical Facts

  • Born August 17, 1944, in New York City
  • Raised by adoptive family in Chicago
  • Dropped out of the University of Illinois after two years (after being named science student of the year), took one term at the University of Chicago, discovered computer programming
  • Relocated to Northern California in 1965, working as a computer programmer
  • Married to Adda Quinn 1967 to 1974
  • In 1977, founded the software company that would become Oracle, continuing as CEO to present
  • Married to Nancy Wheeler 1977 to 1978
  • Married to Barbara Boothe 1983 to 1986, two children born
  • In 1986 Oracle becomes a public company, beginning Ellison's rapid rise in wealth
  • Through 1990s, wins five Maxi World Championships
  • Served as director of Apple Computers 1997 to 2002
  • Married to Melanie Craft 2003 to present, three children born
  • In 2003 made his first bid for the America's Cup, followed by a second attempt in 2007
  • In 2010 will race against Alinghi in the 33rd America’s Cup race in Valencia

Ellison’s Sailing History

Ellison began sailing after moving to California in the 1960s, learning first in a sailing course taught at the University of California. Soon after, at age 25, he bought a 34-foot racing sloop. “I was passionate about sailing and the idea of sailing,” he remembers, “the idyllic independence … travelling with the wind….” After a few years he sold the boat, however, and was too busy building his new company for much time on the water. In the 1990s, after his company had gone public and Ellison had more time and money to indulge his passions, he bought the 78-foot maxi sailboat Sayonara and took up serious world-class racing.

Ellison has won a number of races in Sayonara. In the 1990s he won the Maxi World Championships five times. In the infamous 1998 Sydney-Hobart Race, Ellison skippered the boat through the terrible storm that sank five boats and killed six sailors. Sayonara took first place, but Ellison is said to have been so shaken by the experience that he gave up open ocean racing.

Not long after, Ellison established Oracle Racing, which in 2003 sought to become the challenger for the America’s Cup but lost in the in the Louis Vuitton Cup final round. In 2007 Ellison returned as the second major funder of BMW Oracle Racing, which again attempted to become the challenger in the 32nd America’s Cup against the defender Alinghi. Again, Ellison’s team was eliminated in the Louis Vuitton Cup semifinals.

BMW Oracle, still half funded by Ellison, now has challenger status in the 2010 America’s Cup race against Alinghi, set to begin in February in Valencia, Spain. Ellison himself will sail in the Afterguard position, having hired three-time Cup winner Russell Coutts as team CEO and skipper.

Ellison’s Business History

After working as a computer programmer for a number of companies, in 1977 Ellison joined forces with two colleagues to start a software company building a relational database management system. Their first big contract was to build a database system for the CIA, code-named Oracle. Thereafter they developed a version of their system for commercial applications, and when IBM adopted it for mainframe computers, their new company—now named Oracle—began a fast climb to success.

Oracle went public in 1986 with an initial public offering over $30 million. Oracle continue to grow as business and retail companies increasingly used their Internet-based database system. Although the company has had ups and downs, under Ellison’s guidance it made several key acquisitions in the 2000s, including Sun Microsystems. Oracle now is said to supply all 100 of the Fortune Global 100 companies with their software, and the company was recently valued at over 20 billion dollars—about a fourth of which belongs to Ellison.

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