Analyst questions employment status of Oracle’s finance chief |

Analyst questions employment status of Oracle’s finance chief

SAN FRANCISCO – A prominent software industry analyst on Thursday questioned whether Oracle Corp.’s recently hired chief financial officer, Greg Maffei, is still working for the company – a mystery Oracle so far has declined to clear up.In a research note issued Thursday, Goldman Sachs analyst Rick Sherlund said he realized something was amiss after Oracle Co-President Chuck Phillips dodged a direct question about Maffei’s commitment to the company during a Wednesday night investor conference.”Mr. Phillips indicated that he could not speak for Mr. Maffei and that at some point Mr. Maffei would have to comment for himself and that Mr. Phillips did not want to talk further on the issue,” Sherlund wrote.The evasive answer followed Oracle’s last-minute postponement of an Oct. 24 analyst meeting that was supposed to be led by its CFO. The cryptic situation convinced Sherlund “there are legitimate questions regarding Mr. Maffei’s status at the company.”After Sherlund’s report came out, The Associated Press asked Oracle whether Maffei remains the company’s CFO. “No comment,” Oracle spokesman Bob Wynne said.A message left at Maffei’s Oracle office was not immediately returned Thursday.Redwood Shores-based Oracle previously has attributed Maffei’s unavailability to “scheduling conflicts.”Maffei joined Oracle four months ago, replacing Harry You, who left to take another job after just eight months as the company’s CFO. You had replaced Jeff Henley, who held the job for 13 years before stepping aside to lighten his work load and become Oracle’s chairman.Maffei rose to prominence in the high-tech industry as Microsoft Corp.’s CFO for 2 1/2 years. He left Microsoft in early 2000, shortly after the Redmond, Wash.-based company announced a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into its accounting practices. Before joining Oracle, Maffei had been CEO of Seattle-based 360networks Corp.If Oracle were to lose its CFO for the second time in less than a year, it might intensify questions about the dynamics of the company’s management team.Larry Ellison, the company’s flamboyant co-founder, remains Oracle’s CEO, but he has been delegating more responsibilities to Phillips, a former securities analyst, and another co-president, Safra Catz, a former investment banker.Ellison, Oracle’s largest shareholder, has insisted that he remains deeply involved in all of Oracle’s key decisions. But industry analysts have periodically questioned his commitment as he strives to win America’s Cup – sailing’s most coveted prize.Oracle’s shares fell 45 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $12.03 in late-afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.Phillips and Catz have been guiding a recent $17 billion shopping spree that has included takeovers of rivals PeopleSoft Inc., Retek Inc. and a pending deal to buy Siebel Systems Inc. for $5.85 billion.—On the Web:, Colorado

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