Oracle is on track to deliver the highest operating margins in our history this year.....
Not for nothing has Safra Catz come to be known as the trusted consiglieri and the personal shopper of the Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison, & as Oracle's enforcer and resident deal-maker, when it comes to acquisitions. With over 80 acquisitions spanning her more than a decade-long association with Oracle, she's overseen dozens of mega deals like the $1.9-billion purchase of human-resources software company Taleo, Peoplesoft, and the $7.4 - billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2009, etc., she is well and truly in complete command of the software maker's mergers & acquisitions efforts. Being the CFO at Oracle may not be that high-profile but the authority (to make decisions) that she would miss, is more than made-up by her being the president as well. Moreover, Catz is known to be content in letting the results speak rather than bossing around. It would appear as though she has mastered the art of M&As - her conquests (so to say) for Oracle besides her role as an M&A lecturer at the prestigious Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she teaches "Mergers and Acquisitions: Accounting, Regulatory, and Governance Issues," are all testimony to her wealth of industry knowledge and practical experience.
Although Catz was born (December 1961) in Holon, Israel, her family moved to Massachusetts when she was barely six years old, when her father, a nuclear physicist, took a position at MIT. Her mother, a Holocaust survivor who settled first in the U.S. and then in Israel, worked as a speech therapist in public schools in the Boston area. Catz graduated from the Brooklyn High School. She then went on to earn a Bachelor's degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1983 followed by a Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1986.
Then, around 1987, this famed U-Penn grad joined Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, as an investment banker, then as Senior Vice President from 1994 to 1997, before eventually going on to become its Managing Director in 1997 - where she stayed until 1999 when joined Oracle.
The Big Move
From being a virtual non-entity to start with, she was inducted into the Board of Directors of the company (2001) in only a year and half after joining Oracle, and then she became the president for a brief period in 2004. This new association with industry leader and a pioneer gave Catz the perfect platform from where she could use all her knowledge, skills, education, guile, and foresight to mastermind some of the biggest mergers & acquisition deals ever made in the history of corporate America. She literally single-handedly orchestrated - from initialization to formalization- the company's efforts to acquire software rival PeopleSoft in a $10.3 billion takeover. She had served as the co-president of Peoplesoft in 2004.
Her leadership qualities as well as a shrewd sense of deal-making saw her become the Executive Vice-President of Oracle Corp. from November 1999 to January 2004, and was made responsible for Global Business Practices and Corporate Development. She became the CFO of the company for the first time in November 2005, which term lasted upto September 2008, and then from April 2011 onwards to present.
Much before her now renowned M&As, she did a great deal of work to change some of the aspects about the software giant that stagnating its margins at 22%. Up until then, Oracle was a fragmented business with around 70 companies run independently. She brought them all under one direct control, then she effected a change to the low-priced customer support system, besides adopting a no-negotiations approach vis-a-vis pricing. These changes, apart from getting the OK from customers, had their impact. In just a year since she joined, the operating expenses were reduced by a whopping $1.2 billion, and the margins increased to about 35%. From this point on, she took control of the company's functioning and has been in absolute control of things ever since, which means Larry Ellison could dabble around in things that he would otherwise have not been able to - like spending time in Malibu, CA. It is even said that ninety-eight percent of the time, she'll just do things and inform him after the fact. Two percent of the time, she'll ask him what he wants.
Leading the M&A Machine at Oracle
While she was entrusted with many responsibilities all through her career at Oracle, the fact that she was tasked with the arduous job of mergers, take-overs / acquisitions speaks volumes of the confidence the Oracle leadership had in her deal-making capabilities.
And, she hasn't disappointed them at all. If anything, she has got them what they could barely imagine would be possible. All of the acquisitions encompassing database, middleware, applications, servers, storage & networking, and industry solutions - bear a Catz stamp on them. Right from the journey that began with the acquisition of Peoplesoft, Retek, G-log, and i-flex in 2005 and Siebel (2006) to Sun Micro-systems (2009) & Taleo & Eloqua (2012), and scores of other acquisitions, her efforts have helped consolidate Oracle's position as the leading player in business applications.
Not only that, she has also ensured that the Oracle stable represents a good stack of offerings in every sphere of business life where technological intervention is necessitated. From database, middleware, applications, and servers to industry solutions such as communications & media, engineering & construction, financial services, health sciences, industrial manufacturing, insurance, to retail and utilities, she has made Oracle a complete IT services reference-ecosystem in itself.
While some of these acquisitions were to deter competition, the others were all aimed at consolidating Oracle's position and reinforcing the fact that it was a technology leader - especially for businesses of all types. No wonder then, that almost 80% - 90% of the world's large businesses have applications in their operations that have something or the other to do with Oracle.
In fact, such has been the impact of these M&As, that the company has had to continually nurture partners throughout the nook-and-corner of the world for proliferation and evangelism of all its offerings.
The Way Forward
If she continues to stay with Oracle until Larry Ellison relinquishes the top-post, then Catz is believed to have the best chance of stepping into his role. Whether or not that is going to happen only time will tell, but what is sure, though, is that she will continue to strive for Oracle supremacy in its bastion - business solutions - through all means at her disposal. And, being the pioneering company that Oracle has been for the last 3-decades or so, she is well aware of the need for Oracle to not only mould and prepare itself for the emerging changes in the way businesses are run owing to technological advances, more so when business are constantly on the look-out to make their operations asset-light, she knows that the future of computing has already been revolutionized by a new phenomenon called, "Cloud computing," and she has to equip Oracle with like capabilities in order to beat competition as well as to meet customer requirements.
In order to do that, she pretty much acknowledges the fact that, Oracle should equip itself with these emerging technologies that have, and will continue to, redefine the way businesses are run. Accordingly, she has been laying great emphasis on cloud computing services of Oracle, which alone has brought in about $1 billion worth of business in the last one year.
Her expertise and experience in the leadership position at Oracle has attracted interest from many other leading financial as well as IT services companies, who sought her association in order make use of her midas-touch (because everything that she has laid her hand upon for Oracle has, more or less, turned into gold). So, she served as the Independent Non-Executive Director of Hyperion Solutions Corp. since April 14, 2007, as independent Non-Executive Director at HSBC Holdings plc since May 1, 2008, as Director of PeopleSoft Inc. since December 30, 2004 and Stellent Inc. since December 12, 2006, to name a few.
Catz is married to Gal Tirosh with two children.
Safra Catz heads the Oracle Education Foundation through which Oracle leverages its core competencies in information technology and the internet to support education (through the Foundation and the Oracle Academy). Besides that, she also currently serves as a Susan G. Komen for the Cure global ambassador, aiding the organization in its mission to end breast cancer forever. Over the course of the two-year position, Catz is volunteering her time and expertise to support breast health efforts around the world.
Safra Catz, together with her husband, Gal Tirosh, also established the Dr. Leonard and Judith Catz Endowed Scholarship in honor of Safra's parents. The scholarship has a preference for students from middle-income families with two or more children attending U-Penn at the same time.
Awards & Accolades
Considered amongst the top-50 most powerful women in business by Fortune magazine.
Figured in ExecRanks top CFOs list for 2012 for CFOs who took bold steps to help their companies gain greater fiscal control and oversight.
One of the 100 most powerful women in the world according to Forbes.
* "Oracle is on track to deliver the highest operating margins in our history this year…because we are focusing on high margin systems where hardware and software are engineered to work together."
* "I come from Wall Street, and you'll never see me do a PowerPoint because I'm all about Excel spreadsheets. If it's not in the numbers, I don't care how strategic it is, it doesn't play out."
* "Technology is changing everything, whether it is in reaching out to potential volunteers and donors or running the organizations as efficiently as possible."
* "Salesforce.com doesn't make any money. They just spend money like crazy. At some point, some shareholder is going to ask them, 'Hey, this thing ever, like, show up with any cash?' I don't know why anyone would buy a stock that doesn't make money."
* "We're starting off with a very strong CRM organization. Our policy here was no change."
* "When I look back on the many blessings I have received in my life, I know that none of them would have been possible without my parents. They made many sacrifices so that their children could have an education at the University of Pennsylvania. I know that without that education, I would not be where I am today. Now that I am in a position to honor my parents, I wanted to do it by helping other students benefit from that same education."