Lawrence Joseph Ellison was born in 1944 in New York, to an unwedded 19-year-old mother, Florence Spellman. His father was a U.S. Air Force pilot who had been stationed abroad before Florence realized she was carrying his child. He was an Italian-American, and we all know how Italians love to love. But after Lawrence was born, his mother soon realized she couldn’t raise the child on her own, and after the baby had contracted pneumonia at the age of nine months, Florence decided to give his son for adoption. The new parents were actually her aunt and uncle in Chicago: Lillian Spellman Ellison and Luis Ellison.
He grew up in a two-bedroom apartment of a middle class family which wasn’t exactly heaven on earth, because his relationship with his adoptive father was not a good one. They often clashed, and Ellison remembers his dad as being unsupportive, austere and quite distant. Fortunately, his mother was loving and warm. Larry only found out that he was an adopted child when he was 12. He didn’t know then that his biological mother was actually his adoptive mother’s niece. He met Florence for the first time when he was 48, and he never had the chance to know his biological father.
As a boy, Larry showed a strong aptitude for science and mathematics, but also a rebellious and independent character, which made his relationship with his father even more difficult. He was known to be an inattentive student, though with an agile mind. When it was time for him to go to university, he chose the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but unfortunately his adoptive mother died when he was in his second year of studies. He fell his final exams and then dropped off. He tried to continue his education the next year at the University of Chicago (where he first discovered computer designing), but he only attended there for one term, then he quit. In 1966 he was 22 years old and decided to move to northern California, where he still lives today.
And this is where the fascinating story of the incredibly rich Larry Ellison begins. Currently the fifth richest man in the world, Ellison is said to have a personal wealth of $39.5 billion. That’s right, the inattentive, rebellious kid, turned out to be a software god and one of the richest men alive. We believe this would be the right moment to state clearly what Larry Ellison actually does, for those of you who don’t exactly know who the guy is.
He is the founder of a huge software company that basically makes database programs. His programs are virtually indispensable to modern commerce. Every time you make a plane or hotel reservation, an Oracle (that’s the name of his company) program is almost certainly helping things to go smooth for you. Oracle is also an essential tool for inventory tracking for chain stores, or client databases for large manufacturers. It’s practically omnipresent.
But before Ellison got where he is today, he had to pass through many life challenges and tough experiences. After he moved to California in 1966 (some say it was 1964) he took on various jobs, most of them related to computers. He wasn’t very ambitious at the time, and he mainly worked on weekend and night shifts, doing routine maintenance work – not a very challenging responsibility. In 1967 he married his first wife, Adda Quinn, but three more wives followed after her.
Larry and Adda were married for 17 years, during which time Larry didn’t seem to be a the responsible husband his wife needed. For three years they lived in a one-room apartment and neither made much money. They managed to buy a house in Oakland in 1970, but financial problems always seemed to follow them. Lawrence had (and still has) a passion for sailing and riding, so he one day borrowed money to buy a 34-ft. boat, before he had even paid off his other smaller vessel that he had purchased earlier.
Adda Quinn got worn out by his aimlessness and the growing debts that he continued to create for their family, so she divorced him in 1974. During a marriage counseling session, Larry declared for the first time that he was planning on becoming a millionaire. But because he had never talked about concrete plans for the future before, Adda was not impressed by his decision and advised him to try and make all that money for himself, as she would not change her mind about leaving him.
As this episode of his life ended, Ellison went on working with computers, learning about IBM machines programming and getting hired at Ampex, a small company where he met his future partners at Oracle. At that time, they were only colleagues and they had the opportunity of working on a database program for CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). Ellison, Edward Oates and Robert Miner called their program Oracle. While other database programs were only good at storing a lot of information, Oracle also made retrieving and managing data very easy, which was a huge step forward for that time. Sometime later Larry left Ampex for another company, but the three former colleagues remained friends and always kept in touch.
Ellison became the vice president of a small firm, called Precision Instruments Co., and when the firm needed a company to create software programs for them, Larry got the brilliant idea of starting his own business to answer Precision Instruments’ need. He contacted Oates and Miner and convinced them to join forces and start a company. They formed Software Development Laboratories in 1977, and all they did was to create different programs for Precision Instruments. Since the idea of going on a business venture belonged to Ellison, he took 60% of the company’s earnings, while his partners each took 20%. Later the company was named Oracle, after the program that they had created for CIA.
Some time after that, IBM released a new kind of program, a relational database program, that was better than everything else at that time. After reading the paper on relational database systems that IBM had released, Lawrence suddenly understood that he and his partners too could create similar programs and sell them to anyone, not only to Precision Instruments. Using IBM’s paper, the three managed to figure out how to create their own similar software. They called it Oracle, and CIA was again their customer, the first one outside Precision Instruments.
But as their customers used different brands of computers, Ellison and his partners needed to create different versions of Oracle, one for each computer type. They soon realized that if they could create a version of their program that could work on any computer, their success would be immense. And this is exactly what they did, and the company’s sales grew every year in a dizzying manner. But once Oracle became a multimillion company, things started go down, as Ellison did not know how to manage such a huge business, even though he was very talented as an entrepreneur.
Great problems and debts hit the company in 1990, and that led to its stock value to fall and angry investors to sue Oracle. That was a really rough time for everybody, and the board even suggested Ellison should leave. But he had his mind set on overcoming difficulties and he did not give up. With great efforts and help from professionals, he managed to get the company back on its feet.
Now even though his professional life began to flourish, his love life was never one to envy. He has had four different wives and he divorced them all. His third wife, Barbara Boothe is also the mother of his two children: David and Megan. The two now share custody of their kids.
There was one thing that he never stopped loving though, and that is yachting. He even participated in America’s Cup for several times and in 2010 he brought the Cup back to America for the first time in 15 years.cc
Ellison owns more than boats, as now he clearly can afford to buy whatever his heart desires. He has had several aircrafts, and among his cars we have to mention the Acura NSX, the Audi R8 and the McLaren F1. Lawrence’s home also shows his wealth: the entertainment system of his $70 million residence in Woodside California, cost $1 million. It includes a video projector the size of those used in rock concerts! This is set at the end of an empty swimming pool, which is used as a giant subwoofer. Mind-blowing!
He also owns more than 12 other properties in Malibu, worth over $180 million. But even though he spends pots of money for himself, Lawrence Ellison is a giver too. He is one of the 59 billionaires to have signed Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge, and we have to say we are really impressed with the evolution of this man’s life. He started out as a difficult adopted child, who grew up into a college dropout and later into an aimless young man. But then he finally managed to dust himself up of all his failures – in business and in personal life – and became one of the wealthiest and most successful men alive.