The Enforcer: Who is Oracle's Safra Catz?

September 10, 2009: 10:11 AM ET

She's CEO Larry Ellison's secretive but effective right hand, and one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley. But who is she, really?

Catz is yin to Ellison's yang. Photo: Jay Mallin, Bloomberg News

Catz is yin to Ellison's yang. Photo: Jay Mallin, Bloomberg News

After months of on-again-off-again negotiations to sell itself to IBM, Sun Microsystems this spring found a new, if unlikely, suitor. Oracle, the business-software giant, in many ways promised to be a better fit for Sun, the beleaguered maker of server computers.

A Silicon Valley neighbor whose CEO, Larry Ellison, is pals with Sun chairman Scott McNealy, Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) posed less of an antitrust risk because it wasn't already selling hardware like IBM (IBM, Fortune 500).

But Oracle's all-cash offer of $9.50 per share, or $5.6 billion minus Sun's cash and debt, bested IBM's per-share bid by a mere 40 cents. So on the afternoon of Saturday, April 18, during a Sun board meeting called to pick a winner, CEO Jonathan Schwartz did what chief executives must do in such situations. He phoned Oracle to ask for more money.

He didn't call Ellison, his titular counterpart. Instead, he dialed Safra Catz, Oracle's president. Schwartz proposed a higher price, which, in the dry language of a subsequent securities filing, "Ms. Catz stated would not be acceptable to Oracle." Tail between its collective legs, Sun's board of directors accepted Oracle's final offer that weekend, informed IBM it was out of the game, and on Monday morning announced the shocker of a deal. Read the rest of the story here.

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Adam Lashinsky
Adam Lashinsky
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune

Adam Lashinsky is a San Francisco-based editor-at-large for FORTUNE, covering Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Lashinsky joined FORTUNE in 2001, after two years as a contributing columnist. Prior to joining FORTUNE, Lashinsky covered Silicon Valley for and The San Jose Mercury News. A Chicago native, Lashinsky holds a B.A. in history and political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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