At Oracle, Donald Trump’s defeat in the US presidential election was seen as a relief. Like many companies in Silicon Valley, its employees tend to lean towards Democrats. But the story between the champion of databases and customer relations and the former Republican president took a more personal turn when Oracle boss Safra Catz supported Donald Trump . An exception in this milieu acquired by the Democrats and which has very nearly rocked a society with an irresistible rise, until then.
“A daring change requires a new way of thinking, and President-elect Donald Trump has demonstrated this type of leadership by choosing Steven Mnuchin as the new secretary of the Treasury, wrote Safra Catz in January 2010, in a column published by The Hill . Like the president-elect, Mnuchin is not only someone outside the system in Washington, but also someone who understands how the economy and business work. »
We then speak of Safra Catz as a possible American trade representative or as director of national intelligence. The Israeli-American will ultimately not get an official position in the Trump administration, but she sits on the executive committee of the transition team and remains in the small circle of bosses who have the ear of the White House.
Wave of resignations At Oracle, this ambiguity makes people cringe, especially as the founder Larry Ellison has also shown his sympathies for the Republican president and several times hosted fundraisers in his favor. Visas are a particularly sensitive subject. As soon as he came to power, Donald Trump reduced the number of H-1B visas, traditionally used by tech companies to attract foreign talent. A system that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and others consider essential to maintain their competitiveness. Some even challenge the measures in court. Oracle, for its part, remains silent…
Some cannot stand it. “You were recently quoted saying, ‘I want to tell the president-elect that we are by his side and that we are here to help him, in any way that we can’, before joining his transition team, protests George. Polisner, employee at Oracle since 1990, in his letter of resignation. I am not with President-elect Trump and I am not here to help him. In fact, when its policies border on unconstitutionality, moral and criminal injustice, I am here to oppose it, in every possible and legal way. The letter addressed to Safra Catz is made public and it arouses vocations. Several executives slam the door in the process.
For the boss of Oracle, the situation is complicated. A few years earlier, under the Obama administration, she had defended anti-migration laws. “As an immigrant myself, it drives me crazy. There are so many success stories created by immigrants in America that it is getting harder and harder for educated people to stay here is really unfortunate. »
Product of meritocracy She knows what she is talking about. She was born in Holon, Israel, in 1961 then raised in Rehovot , south of Tel Aviv. His parents, originally from Romania, survived the Holocaust before settling in Israel after the war. His father fought during the Six Day War, in 1961, while his mother stay with the children, in an underground shelter.
The family then leaves for the United States, where his father, a physics professor, finds a job at MIT. Her mother becomes a speech therapist. And it is in Brookline, in the suburbs of Boston, that Safra Catz will learn English, which she does not speak when she arrives in the United States. She has the chance to evolve in a favorable environment and will take full advantage of American meritocracy, going to high school at Brookline High School, one of the best American public establishments.
I’m from Wall Street and you’ll never see me doing Powerpoint, I prefer Excel tables.
Safra Catz She then obtained a diploma in business administration at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, completed his studies with law, still at the University of Pennsylvania, then at Harvard. A brilliant course which gave him the embarrassment of the choice to start his career, in the middle of the years 1961. She eventually joined an investment bank, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, where she rose through the ranks.
Discovery of the software world In the middle of the years 1990, she was vice-president, then general manager. This is not the career she dreams of, she would see herself more in an operational role, in a company in contact with the public, rather than on Wall Street. But she discovered the world of software there, through several clients… including Oracle. In 1993 comes the opportunity she was waiting for: she joined the software giant, which then counts already tens of thousands of customers, including almost all Fortune companies 60.
But the finances of the company are not, then, up to expectations. Margins, in particular, remain tiny compared to those of its competitors. Catz is engaged with one mission: to improve the numbers. “I come from Wall Street and you will never see me do Powerpoint, I prefer Excel tables,” she announces when she is hired. If that doesn’t translate into the numbers, I don’t care if it’s strategic, that doesn’t count, that’s all! »
Very few interviews She then immersed herself entirely in this new world, erecting the client on a pedestal and lives for his work. While demonstrating a character of steel. During a meeting attended by around thirty executives, the CEO and founder, Larry Ellison, tries to slip away, using the pretext of another meeting. Safra Catz grabs him by the arm and slips him in front of everyone: “You can’t go, Larry, this is important, and I know you have time.” The boss changes his mind, sits down and waits! In one year, it manages to save the company $ 1.2 billion and the margins go from 05 % To 35%.
His arrival, however, was discreet. As Vice President, she does not have an office and most often works at a corner of the table, with Larry Ellison. “For a long time, no one knew why she was there,” Ray Lane, then president of Oracle, later recalled.
The culture of secrecy It must be said that Safra Catz cultivates secrecy. His interviews can be counted on the fingers of both hands. “She’s seen what fame and wealth can bring, and she’s not impressed,” Larry Ellison once revealed. For some, it is a visceral need to protect her privacy – her husband, Gal Tirosh, has long been a housewife, raising their two children.
For others, it is contempt for the press. “If a journalist gives you difficulties, has unreasonable requests, I give you permission to send him out for a walk,” she explains one day to a member of the press service. At Oracle, even today, some admit to ignoring everything about their boss.
She saw what fame and wealth can bring, and she’s not impressed.
Larry Ellison CEO of Oracle And the marketing department had all the trouble in the world to convince her to pose for a photo on the corporate site. “Raising the stock market of Oracle interests him much more than having his photo on the cover of magazines,” confided Joseph Grundfest, former member of the board of directors of Oracle, in a portrait of “Fortune” published. in 2005.
Migrant status On her journey, there too, she prefers not to linger. Set up by some as an example, she hardly ever talks about her past as a migrant, any difficulties she might have encountered. She just stressed her attachment to Israel and Romania, the country of her parents, where Oracle has created several thousand jobs. “My goal has always been to invest in Romania,” she declared during the inauguration of a center for 3. 000 people near Bucharest.
When she felt that the debate on the immigration and its relations with Donald Trump were growing, she had launched during an intervention in India: “The United States is a nation of migrants. Common sense will always prevail. This is one of the rare times that she has put forward her status as a migrant. Some people wonder about this silence: political contradictions? Feeling of having been a privileged one? Cult of secrecy?
Self-made woman Nothing has changed, in any case, during her linear ascent within society. Chief Financial Officer from 2005, where she brilliantly piloted a series of acquisitions, including that of PeopleSoft and Sun Microsystems, Co-Chair from 2009, then alone at the controls after the death of Mark Hurd in 2019. A role that could have shed more light on her, but which only reinforced the mystery around her.
Anyway, Safra Catz is today one of tech’s most powerful personalities. At the head of a personal fortune of 1.6 billion dollars, she received a remuneration of almost a million dollars in the last fiscal year. A “special Covid” treatment, while it has affected, in some years, more than 35 millions. The daughter of academics who survived the Holocaust became one of the 50 “self-made women” billionaires (the 180 others are heiresses).