Orascape: How Marc Andreessen narrowly escaped working for Larry Ellison

November 18, 2011

By Sarah McBride and Poornima Gupta

In 1996, software giant Oracle Corp. came close to buying browser company Netscape Communications, but negotiations fell apart after Oracle’s board decided paying for Netscape would require too much dilution of Oracle’s stock.

Negotiations included Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Chairman Jeffrey Henley, and President Ray Lane. On Netscape’s side, they included co-founder Marc Andreessen and Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr, who backed the browser company. In the interest of secrecy, they and their bankers met at a house in Atherton, Calif., that Lane had just purchased. With no furniture, the group was forced to negotiate on makeshift tables created from sawhorses and plywood.

“There were certain exciting things about the opportunity but we also loved our company,” Andreessen told Reuters. He said he can’t recall the price that was under discussion. An Oracle spokeswoman declined to comment.

At the time, Oracle was working hard on networked, diskless computers, still rare at that era. The initiative, perhaps a bit ahead of its time, died a few years later.

Netscape, which was founded in 1994 and held a blockbuster initial public offering in 1995, is widely considered to have kicked off the frenzy around all things Internet that ended in the dotcom crash of 2000. It was bought by AOL in 1998, which ended up disbanding the business a few years later.


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