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November 4, 2005 2:55 am

Oracle loses CFO after reports of in-fighting

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Oracle on Thursday lost a chief financial officer for the second time this year amid reports of in-fighting in its senior ranks.

Greg Maffei, who had joined the world's second biggest independent software company in June as CFO and one of three co-presidents, quit after a day of intrigue during which investors were left in the dark about the make-up of the company's top management group.

The uncertainty knocked more than 2 per cent from Oracle's shares before an announcement of Mr Maffei's fate came after the market closed.

A former CFO at Microsoft, he was hired in June to replace Harry You, who had left the company after less than a year to become chief executive officer of BearingPoint.

Mr Maffei had been best known for investments he carried out at Microsoft in the 1990s in cable and other broadband companies, although many of those later led to write-downs after the end of the tech and telecoms bubble.

His arrival at Oracle raised eyebrows on Wall Street from the beginning, given that Safra Catz, another of the company's co-presidents, had masterminded its deals, including its hostile takeover of rival PeopleSoft.

"Oracle didn't need another deal guy - Safra wears that hat. They were destined to clash," said one person who is familiar with the company. According to this person, Mr Maffei had been publicly critical of both Chuck Phillips, the third co-president, and Ms Catz after he arrived at Oracle, sparking off a tussle at the top of the company.

Ms Catz has long had a close working relationship with Larry Ellison, Oracle's chief executive officer, and has been seen as his closest ally at the company. A former Oracle executive added: "If there was a knife fight, she was going to win." A spokesperson for Oracle denied that there had been any clash of personalities at the company.

In the first apparent sign of the upheaval, Oracle last week cancelled a meeting with analysts in New York where Mr Maffei had been due to make a presentation. A spokesperson said on Thursday that the event had been cancelled due to an illness in his family.

At a dinner with analysts this week that replaced the full-scale meeting, Mr Phillips refused to comment directly when asked about Mr Maffei's continuing role at the company, said Rick Sherlund, Goldman Sach's software analyst. That prompted Mr Sherlund to issue a note early on Thursday questioning whether Mr Maffei still had a job at Oracle.

The news of his departure came in a brief statement after the market closed. Oracle said Ms Catz would take over as CFO, adding it to her responsibilities of running the global operations.

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