At a news conference held after the second day of


(ORCL) - Get Report

OpenWorld conference, head honcho Larry Ellison was asked when he would name his successor.

Both IBM and Oracle Claim Victory in Database Bout

Market Buys Oracle CEO's Prediction, but Analysts Don't

Oracle's Ellison Predicts Growth Will Return Next Year

The question came in the wake of high-level Oracle exec Jay Nussbaum leaving the company for an executive vice president spot at consultant



-- the fourth such executive departure from Oracle in the last 18 months -- last Friday.

Ellison mused aloud on the subject, telling reporters why he thinks it's not a good idea to name his wing man before he leaves. Asked to clarify that by

, Ellison got a little sharp. Here's a read of what he said, as recorded by TSC.

"Who is going to be my successor? I think I'll go with the Jack Welch approach: I'll tell you right before I leave," Ellison said to laughter from the reporters.

"No, seriously," he continued, "the idea of a strong No. 2, I've tried that a couple times, and it didn't work out for me." Ellison didn't refer specifically to Ray Lane, the president and CEO-in-waiting who left Ellison in the lurch in June 2000. Lane, now at venture capital shop Kleiner Perkins, later told reporters it was because working for Ellison was insufferable.

"Now, I think there are several people capable inside of Oracle," Ellison continued. "But I think one of the problems, well, it's really interesting once you name, and someone perceives themselves, or they're perceived to be, the No. 2. Sometimes they get blinded by the limelight. And they actually sometimes become less effective than they were before."

The room got quiet.

"They become so difficult. It's very seductive to be sitting in front of you guys and being asked questions like 'What do you think about the economy?' you know." Ellison had told us a few minutes earlier that the recession would end in 2002, and that his company would become insanely profitable when it did.

"It's very heady stuff, people asking you when the recession is going to end. Do you want to know when I think the recession is going to end? Wow. So, it really is easy to get drunk on this stuff, and I don't think it's healthy for Oracle to have that kind of management structure. And again, we have tremendous talent inside of this company and really fantastic people."

"But I'd much rather have them doing their jobs than sit here talking to you," Ellison concluded, to even more laughs.

"So, are you saying Ray Lane couldn't handle the limelight?" we humbly asked.

A somewhat taken aback Larry: "Am I saying that Ray Lane couldn't handle the limelight? No, no, I'm not saying that."

"So who are you referring to?" we followed.

"Oh, I, well? Write whatever you want to write."