Larry Ellison couldn't buy this kind of PR

Then again, maybe he could, considering his $192.9 million compensation package last year. But Sarah Lacy is providing air cover for his big pay day, gratis.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read

And here I thought that court sycophancy died out with the demise of the ancient regime.

Just another working stiff.

In Forbes' annual list of top executive salaries, Oracle's Larry Ellison finished in first place, with total 2007 compensation at $192.9 million. I'm sure it's good to be the king. But just in case any jealous serfs are asking why this mere mortal is worth such a royal sum, here comes journalist Sarah Lacy to remind us Ellison "deserves to be one of the most highly paid CEOs in the Valley."

That might have been a good point of departure for a more searching conversation on wealth and power in America or a discussion about how society divides up its spoils. Instead, the post skims the surface. Lacy writes that "Ellison gets where software is going" and that "he also gets where the technology business is going." Gee, with those credentials, I guess Oracle's board was guilty of short-changing its CEO.

More seriously, Ellison deserves fair compensation for his labors over the years. Of course, if you ask a dozen compensation experts what "fair" means, you'll wind up with a dozen different answers. Boring blather about whether Ellison's a sweetheart or someone who kicks pussycats is irrelevant. There's a statistical benchmark to measure the CEO of a publicly traded company. So I went back in time to how Oracle's shares fared over the last decade in two-year increments.

• May 4, 1998: $26.31

• May 4, 2000: $37.12

• May 3, 2002: $8.43

• May 4, 2004: $11.35

• May 3, 2006: $14.32

• May 3, 2008: $21.50

Not the most impressive stock performance in memory. Of course, the intervening 10 years were marked by the dot-com bubble burst as well as the subsequent recession. But when the economy recovered, so did the stock market. Judge Oracle's performance for what it is over the course of the last decade, but is the CEO really worth $192.9 million? You tell me.


Update: Judging from the feedback, I'm a moron for not noting stock adjustment & dividend announcements prior to the bubble. At the risk of again letting the trolls change the subject, I ask again: Is Ellison worth nearly $193 million for the job turned in over the course of last year? I must have missed it when Oracle shares broke triple digits in 2007. Wait, they didn't? No kidding. 'I'm still rubbing my eyes in disbelief at anyone who thinks that this incredible compensation package makes sense based upon the company's performance. If some folks still want to make that claim, whatever. There is no shortage of suck-ups to corporate greed. Anyway, I'm moving on.