Ellison picks sea over summit 

click to enlarge CEO Larry Ellison failed to show up for his annual Oracle OpenWorld speech Tuesday afternoon. - EVAN DUCHARME/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Evan DuCharme/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • CEO Larry Ellison failed to show up for his annual Oracle OpenWorld speech Tuesday afternoon.
About 60,000 people have come from all over the world to attend Oracle’s biggest customer conference of the year, but CEO Larry Ellison left no doubt Tuesday that his boating team’s defense of the America’s Cup is a higher priority.

Ellison, a billionaire known for his flamboyance, delivered that message by snubbing the crowd that gathered at the Moscone Center to see him. His speech is considered the marquee event at Oracle OpenWorld, an annual rite of autumn that has grown so large that some city streets close down to accommodate the masses on hand to learn about the business software maker’s latest products.

Oracle Chairman Jeff Henley waited until 45 minutes after the scheduled start of Ellison’s keynote address to inform the packed audience that Ellison had decided to remain on a chase boat on San Francisco Bay so he could watch the second of the day’s two America’s Cup races. The battle for the 162-year-old trophy pits Oracle Team USA — a group financed by Ellison’s vast wealth — against Emirates Team New Zealand.

Almost as soon as Henley extended his apologies for Ellison’s absence, people began to head for the exits. Thomas Kurian, an Oracle executive vice president of product development, gave an hourlong presentation in Ellison’s place.

“I was disappointed,” said Steve Katz, a Hewlett-Packard Co. employee who traveled from Hartford, Conn., to attend Oracle OpenWorld. “I guess Larry’s boat is more important to him than all these people here.”

Katz said Ellison could possibly make amends by showing up later in the conference to show the America’s Cup to everyone.

Oracle Team USA won both of Tuesday’s races to even a competition it seemed destined to lose just a week ago. It increased Team USA’s improbable winning streak to seven straight races to knot the match at 8-8.

A winner-take-all showdown is scheduled this Wednesday afternoon, weather permitting.

Ellison’s immersion in yachting has sometimes raised questions among analysts about whether he is allowing his outside interests to distract him from running the software company that he co-founded 36 years ago. Ellison, 69, still owns a 25 percent stake in Oracle, accounting for most of a personal fortune currently estimated at $41 billion by Forbes magazine.

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