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Larry Ellison and the Art of War

REDWOOD SHORES, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- As evidenced by his headline-grabbing appearance at Oracle's (ORCL - Get Report) recent courtroom battle with SAP (ORCL - Get Report), Larry Ellison never misses an opportunity to publicly trash the opposition.

The fiery Oracle boss has verbally attacked Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - Get Report) and its new CEO Leo Apotheker, who was previously in charge at SAP.
Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle

Brash and belligerent, with a penchant for sportscars, planes and yachts, Ellison is undoubtedly one of the most colorful figures in Silicon Valley, as tech peers Google (GOOG) and IBM( HPQ - Get Report ) -- two of his past targets -- can attest. The outspoken, hard-charging 66-year old is even the subject of a biography, The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison.

Nonetheless, Ellison is a divisive figure. Some experts have warned that his confrontational style may be counter productive in the long-term, but others say that this is key to both his own and his company's success. Forbes rates Ellison as the sixth-richest person in the world with a fortune of $27 billion.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University and author of Power: Why Some People Have It -- And Others Don't, told TheStreet that Ellison's approach runs counter to current business thinking, which he describes as the "Kumbaya" theory of leadership.

"There is all this stuff about how you have to be nice and kind, but if you look, not just at Larry Ellison, but at a lot of other people, including some very successful politicians, you find that is not always the case," he said. "[Ellison] is very blunt about what he is doing, and why he is doing it -- he does not have the veneer that a lot of people have."

Pfeffer points, in particular, to Oracle's battle to acquire PeopleSoft in 2004, which was fought tooth and nail by PeopleSoft chief Craig Conway. The CEO accused Oracle of attempting to disrupt PeopleSoft's business with its hostile takeover bid and was soon embroiled in a war of words with Ellison. At one point, the Oracle boss even included Conway's dog in a now-famous barb. The Oracle boss eventually clinched the PeopleSoft deal.

Ellison even duked it out with the European Union regulators last year over Oracle's controversial acquisition of Sun, railing against an antitrust probe that delayed the deal.

Ellison also shares some competitive traits with his close friend Steve Jobs at Apple (AAPL - Get Report), said Pfeffer. "I think that both [Ellison and Jobs] are people who, like all successful people, are more interested in winning than whether people like what they have done," he said.
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