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Larry Ellison on Steve Jobs personality, successes and failures

Karen Haslam | June 1, 2012
Last night president of Pixar Ed Catmull and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison sat down at the D10 conference to chat about Apple’s late CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs. They discussed Jobs success, his personality, how he interacted with people, and what made Jobs so unique.

And Jobs changed over the years, according to Ellison: "He learned to temper. He learned to understand that people didn't enjoy feeling that they were not valuable. As we get older we all learn to be empathetic."

This change in Jobs' personality may explain why Catmull's working relationship with Jobs was so different to those at Apple. "The Steve I knew was very kind and very empathetic with people," Catmull said. "Those things weren't there earlier, but he learned how to do it after Next. Learned to listen".

Catmull spoke about his relationship with Jobs at Pixar. The fundamental difference there was that Jobs trusted the staff at Pixar: Catmull said: "Steve never came to a story meeting at Pixar. It was actually amazing, but it was the agreement. He trusted people with things he didn't know."

Catmull suggested that it wasn't just that Jobs was happy to let Pixar run itself: "I knew his heart was in Apple. He knew the difference. He knew when he needed to be in it, and when he needed to support us."

Page 1: Ellison speakes about the personality of his friend Jobs

Page 3: How leaving Apple the first time transformed Jobs


How leaving Apple the first time transformed Jobs

Many agree that after Jobs' was kicked out of Apple by his Board of Directors in 1985 he mellowed somewhat and the lessons learned at Next also changed him for the better.

According to Ellison, being kicked out of the company he founded was a big surprise to Jobs'. Ellison noted: "He made himself vulnerable. He didn't negotiate with his board well enough. He expected the board to know that he was irreplaceable."

His fiery personality is one reason why Jobs was fired (although officially he decided to leave the company). Ellison thinks things would be different today, and that's probably because with hindsight firing Jobs "almost cost Apple its existence", in Ellison's words. "The Apple board didn't like the way he behaved. But look at the young geniuses in Silicon Valley now. If they don't like their boards, they fire them. To some degree I think that's a result of Steve," he added.

"It's almost a bible story in the Valley", said Walt Mossberg.

Ellison clarified: "Entrepreneurs don't trust their boards anymore. Larry and Sergei can fire their boards. Zuckerberg can. Firing Steve was such an incredible mistake."

From dressing in a turtleneck and jeans to dressing the Apple Stores

The conversation also touched on Jobs famous black mock turtleneck and jeans: "Steve wore the same thing every day because he didn't want to think about what he was wearing. Steve didn't care about the way he dressed," according to Ellison.


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