Oracle CEO Mark Hurd's sudden and unexpected announcement that he was going on medical leave is a potential setback for Oracle, analysts said Wednesday. Specifically, they said, Oracle's sales strategy could suffer while Hurd isn't at the helm, even as the company renews its efforts around cloud computing.
Hurd said he is taking time off "to spend time focused on my health." Oracle has not offered any details on the reason for the medical leave or how long he is expected to be away. Safra Catz, Hurd's co-chief executive, will split Hurd's duties with CTO and founder Larry Ellison, the company said.
Hurd did not join Catz or Ellison on the call to announce the company's fiscal first-quarter results. The call had originally been scheduled for Thursday. Catz said, "We felt it made sense to share all of our news at once."
The call focused mainly on the company's financial results, even though Hurd's leave comes at a critical time for Oracle. The Silicon Valley behemoth is set to hold its annual Oracle OpenWorld convention in San Francisco next week, and is making an aggressive bid to play a bigger role in the cloud.
"I think this is a huge blow for Oracle," analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy told Business Insider. "Hurd is the de facto leader of the company and his shoes will be very hard to fill."
Moorhead had worked with Hurd in the early 1990s when they were at NCR, the banking and commerce device manufacturer.
Hurd's leave is a "tough situation" for Oracle, said IDC President Crawford Del Prete, as it navigates a market dominated by cloud players including Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
"Mark is the face of Oracle's salesforce, so him leaving before Oracle OpenWorld is a big deal," he told Business Insider. "The company will need to move quickly to engage the salesforce and keep them engaged going forward. Oracle is in the middle of a huge pivot to the cloud so focus really matters."
Marty Wolf, president of Martinwolf M&A Advisors, called Hurd's leave "disruptive."
"Oracle needs fewer distractions, and this is a major one," he told Business Insider.
Safra Catz can pick up the slack
Hurd joined Oracle in 2010 after a stint as CEO of Hewlett Packard. Before being picked to lead HP, Hurd had a long career at NCR.
Hurd's leave is bound to turn the spotlight on changes in Oracle's leadership. He and Catz took over as co-CEOs after Ellison stepped down in 2014. Ellison remains Oracle's chief technology officer and executive chairman.
Ray Wang of Constellation Research said he expects Ellison to play a bigger role with Hurd's absence. "We can expect Larry to take a more active role until a replacement is found," he told Business Insider.
However, analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates said he does not expect Ellison to re-assume the CEO post.
"Larry's not coming any more back than he already is," he told Business Insider. "It's Safra's show now, unless Larry says otherwise."
Del Prete of IDC also said he does not expect Ellison to return as CEO.
"Safra is a strong leader who is fully capable of managing all aspects of the business," he said. "That's not the challenge. I believe the challenge is the focus that Mark brought to the sales function."
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