Larry Ellison was born in New York in 1944 to an unwed Jewish mother. At the age of 9 months old, Ellison contracted pneumonia, at which point his mother gave him to her aunt and uncle for adoption. Larry Ellison did not meet his mother again until he was 48 years old.

Ellison remembers his adoptive mother as warm and loving. He attended the University of Illinois but dropped out after his second year, due to the death of his adoptive mother. He then joined the University of Chicago for one term, where he first encountered computer design.

In 1977 Ellison co-founded a database management company called Software Development Laboratories, changing the name to Relational Software in 1979, and finally Oracle in 1982.

According to Ellison “Oracle made an incredible business mistake.” In 1990, laying off 10% of its entire workforce (400 people) and almost becoming bankrupt. This mistake was in fact down to its ‘up-front’ marketing policy where sales people would urge customers to buy the largest amount of software all at once, leading to Oracle having to re-state its earnings twice and settle a number of class-action lawsuits because of overstating their earnings.

Photo courtesy of Hartmann Studios

Photo courtesy of Hartmann Studios

In 2010, Oracle acquires Sun Microsystems allowing it to revitalise assets and create new and innovative products. Importantly, they also gained control of the MySQL open source database, catapulting Oracle to the forefront of its competition, earning annual revenue of around $38 billion.

Ellison has an estimated net worth of $44 billion and is known for his impressive collection of planes, yachts, mansions, and even an entire Hawaiian island.  He stepped down as CEO in 2014 and is now spending his time dedicated to personal pursuits.

He is also known for his philanthropic side, with a Forbes’s 2004 list of charitable donations made by the wealthiest 400 Americans stated that Ellison had donated $151,092,103, about 1% of his estimated personal wealth

In August 2010, it was reported that Ellison is one of the 40 billionaires who have signed “The Giving Pledge”.

He wrote: “Many years ago, I put virtually all of my assets into a trust with the intent of giving away at least 95 percent of my wealth to charitable causes. I have already given hundreds of millions of dollars to medical research and education, and I will give billions more over time. Until now, I have done this giving quietly because I have long believed that charitable giving is a personal and private matter.”

Not bad from a man who was born into poverty and had been all but given up on.

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