Brainstorm Tech 2010

Where the Fortune 500 and the innovators meet to shape the future of business. (July 22-24, 2010)

Oracle plans to double acquisition budget

July 22, 2010: 7:50 PM ET

Bringing on Sun Microsystems, BEA and Hyperion may look like small potatoes when they're done

by Laura Rich, contributor

Oracle (ORCL) will spend $70 billion in acquisitions over the next five years, Oracle president Charles Phillips said at the Brainstorm Fortune Tech conference in Aspen. "It's early in the game, and there's plenty left to do," he said.

Such a budget -- fueled by increased spending from enterprise customers -- would be a steep increase from what the company spent in the last five years, when it made massive buys like Sun Microsystems for $5 billion, BEA for $8.5 billion, and Hyperion for over $3 billion.

Phillips said the company would move into adjacent areas, including, he joked, content. In response to pointed questions about whether Oracle has Salesforce.com (CRM)-- started by ex-Oracle exec Marc Benioff -- in its sights, Phillips said there are "no plans to buy them."

Acquisitions have been massive undertakings for the database company. The merger with Sun, for example, was delayed by nine months by the European Commission, which finally approved it early this year. Phillips take on that: Europe is a mess.

But now that the merger is complete, does it all work? "Part of the reason the Oracle culture is so strong in the field is because we feel we own the accounts, own the customers," said Phillips. He sounded a less prideful tone when he talked about Sun's legacy approach: "Sun wanted to sell through partners as much as possible."

Oracle is now effectively rewriting the Sun approach to dealing with big customers: "We feel they deserve a direct relationship with us," he said.

Phillips said that "relative to what we read," the market for enterprise customers is getting stronger, with the exception of Europe.

But is all such growth and potential hinging on the leadership of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison? "You can't replace a founder like that. Well, there could be someone equally capable, I suppose. But everyone wants to get five minutes in front him," he said, referring to the company's engineers. "Then they're motivated for two years."

That's nearly half the time in which Oracle plans to spend its $70 billion.

Update: On Friday morning, Oracle released a statement that essentially retracted Phillips' comments. "Oracle does not have a five year acquisition budget. We don't even have a one year acquisition budget. While it is highly unlikely that we will spend anything approaching $70 billion in five years, we will be opportunistic and, if market conditions warrant, we will buy additional companies that further our strategic goals and address our customers' needs."

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Oracle had acquired StorageTek and MySQL. Those were both purchased by Sun Microsystems prior to Oracle's acquisition of Sun.

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