NetSuite CEO on Life with Larry

May 20, 2009

What’s it like to run a public company majority owned by Larry Ellison, Oracle’s founder and the world’s 4th richest person? Fairly hands-off, NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson said at the Reuters Global Technology Summit on Wednesday. SaaS provider NetSuite,  seeded with Ellison’s cash when it was private, went public in December of 2007.

“As we got larger and larger, the relationship changed from him calling me to me calling him,” Nelson said. “So today he rarely calls me, although I will pick up the phone once a quarter, once every six months if I have a question about strategy or what we’re doing in the business to get his pulse on it, and so obviously that’s very valuable access to him.”

Ellison and his family own about 61 percent of NetSuite, but his influence is limited by design. Before the company’s IPO, Ellison put the 52 percent that he directly owns in a “lockbox” company, reducing concerns about a potential conflict of interest with Oracle.

Nelson said when he first joined NetSuite in 2003, Ellison was very engaged, calling him every month to check on the company’s numbers. “He was very engaged in a positive way… One thing I’ve noticed about Larry or about other entrepreneurs, is they are the most optimistic people on the planet. He was the anti-VC if you will…, he was all about, “No, how much more money can I put into this?”

“And who had an investor like that during the dot-com bust? Nobody did.  Which is why we ultimately emerged in the position we did.”

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