Back in 1997, Larry Ellison was on a beach in Hawaii. After sipping his second Margarita that evening, he turned to his pal Steve Jobs who was listening to Bob Dylan in his Sony Walkman. “Steve…Steve…STEVE! Hey, let’s buy Apple.”
The Oracle CEO had all the money lined up, ready to buy the triumphant return of Caesar. But Steve didn’t want that kind of comeback. He thought that if he proceeded with a takeover, people would think he was just greedy, wanting to make money out of the company. In Ellison’s own words:
He explained to me that with the moral high ground, he thought he could make decisions more easily and more gracefully.
My guess is that it wasn’t only that. Steve wanted to be wanted. He knew he was loved by the public and the press. After all, everyone likes the story of a legend coming back — to see him succeed or, better yet, for Hollywood drama, fail. More importantly, the company was his company. He didn’t have to buy it! That was absolutely preposterous, he probably thought at the time. He knew he was going to return as king once again, acclaimed by his troops and his people, so why spend any money?
He was right. As we know now, it all worked out. He returned, first as (interim) CEO bringing the iMac that wasn’t going to be named iMac, then as official CEO. He turned the company around from insignificance and certain oblivion to one of the most recognisable and successful brands in consumer electronics. Which apparently is the reason why Fortune has named him CEO of the Decade. [Fortune]