“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.” ~Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison is the third richest American listed on the Forbes 400, having made his fortune in the tech industry. The Oracle CEO and co-founder certainly is an interesting character, and it’s not hard to be reminded of Iron Man’s Tony Stark when looking at a snapshot of his life.
Ellison isn’t one to live humbly on his billionaire’s salary—he owns an array of exotic cars and is a yachting enthusiast. In 2010, his team, BMW Oracle Racing, won the second race in a “deed of gift” series of the 33rd America’s Cup. Also a licensed pilot, Ellison has owned several aircraft, including two military jets. Larry Ellison also owns 98% of Hawaii’s Lanai Island and is a collector of houses on Carbon Beach in Malibu.
But despite the fact that he enjoys some of the material comforts extreme wealth has to offer, he is also an active philanthropist and has donated a significant amount of money to various charitable organizations. A 2004 Forbes article stated that Ellison had donated a reported $151,092,103 in his lifetime, about one percent of his estimated worth. A member of the Giving Pledge as of 2010, Ellison has promised to give away at least half his wealth or more in his lifetime or upon death.
“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,” he wrote. “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 thing quietly—because I have long believed that charitable giving is a personal and private matter.”
Ellison was born in New York City and was raised by his mother’s aunt and uncle after his biological mother gave him up to them for adoption. He grew up in Chicago in a middle-class Jewish neighborhood and later went on to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for two years before dropping out after his adoptive mother passed away. He attended the University of Chicago for one term, where he briefly encountered computer design.
After moving to northern California in his early twenties, Ellison worked for Ampex Corporation, where he worked on a database project for the CIA called “Oracle.” In 1977, he founded Software Development Laboratories (SDL), which would eventually become Oracle Systems Corporation. Today, Ellison retains the CEO position at Oracle, while Safra Catz and Mark Hurd serve as co-presidents.