AIB Featured Business Leader Safra Catz

AIB Featured Business Leader  Safra Catz


With a reputation of being shy from interviews and publicity, there is much to learn about Safra Catz – current co-CEO of IT giant Oracle. Born in Holon, Israel to Jewish parents, Catz began her life with a very different upbringing to other Silicon Valley executives. Moving from Israel to Massachusetts at the age of six, she completed her education in the state before moving to Pennsylvania to complete her Bachelor of Arts/Science at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. She then received a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1986, completing her final year at Harvard Law School.

Post studies, Safra Catz found herself as a banker at global investment firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenerette (DLJ) on Wall Street. She served as a Senior Vice President from January 1994 until February 1997, then as Managing Director from February 1997 to March 1999. While investment banking wasn’t her ideal career path, Catz credits her time on Wall Street for her knowledge of and interest in emerging software.

In 1999, Safra Catz made the move to join Oracle Corporation. Self described as “powering innovation by simplifying IT”, Oracle has more than 400,000 customers, including 100 of the Fortune 100, “with deployments across a wide variety of industries in more than 145 countries”. Essentially, Oracle offer a fully integrated suite of cloud applications, platform services and engineers systems for businesses around the world.

After only two years at the organisation, Catz became a member of the Board of Directors in 2001, before becoming President of Oracle Corporation in 2004. It was clear she was a brilliant businessperson from the onset, gaining fast promotion and ever increasing responsibility. Described by Fortune as “a workaholic”, Safra Catz developed a reputation as a very diligent worker who was a master of her subject matter. Previous colleague at DLJ Vince DiGiaimo once said that “Safra always thought there was more to be done. Her clients always came first” and “She wouldn’t take no for an answer”. It is for this reason that Founder and former-CEO of Oracle Larry Ellison once said “If I dropped dead tomorrow, Safra Catz would be the CEO of Oracle”.

Credited for having driven Oracle’s efforts to acquire software rival PeopleSoft in 2005, it comes as no surprise that in 2014 it was announced that Catz and colleague Mark Hurd would become co-CEOs of Oracle after Larry Ellison stepped down. At the time of appointment, Catz had been at Oracle for over 16 years, and as such was rewarded with a number of stock options. To date, she is one of the world’s highest paid female executives, earning nearly $38 million in 2014 according to Forbes. While she has been responsible for closing over 85 acquisitions over the past five years, Catz’s finance background was evident when she told Fortune “If it’s not in the numbers, I don’t care how strategic it is, it doesn’t play out”.

In addition to co-CEO, Safra Catz is a Member of Executive Council of TechNet, and is on the Board of Directors for HSBC Holdings. In 2009 she was ranked as the 12th Most Powerful Woman in Business by Fortune, and more recently as #27 on Forbes’ 2015 America’s Self-Made Women list, and #24 on the 2015 Most Powerful Woman list. She is also an accounting lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

What do you think?

Are you impressed by the career of Safra Catz and how she has managed to stay relatively out of the spotlight despite such an impressive resume? I am interested to hear what you admire most about her. Comment your views below and feel free to suggest any other business leaders that you’d like to see profiled in the future.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Forbes; Wikipedia; Fortune; Oracle; USA Today and Oracle Fact Sheet.

Image Credit: Zimbio

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