When Bill Clinton delivers the keynote speech at an Oracle Corp. convention Monday, it might mark the start of a new business relationship between the former president and the world’s second-largest software company.
The buzz around Oracle’s Redwood Shores headquarters these days is that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, an unabashed Clinton admirer, is trying to persuade his old political friend to fill a vacant seat on the company’s board of directors.
Oracle representatives have little to say about the possibility, but the theory began making the rounds even before Clinton left office Jan. 20.
Clinton’s marquee appearance at an Oracle conference in New Orleans provides more momentum to the tantalizing notion of the former president joining forces with Ellison, the world’s second-wealthiest man behind Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Analysts: It Would Make Sense
Oracle said there are no hidden agendas behind Clinton’s President’s Day speech in New Orleans, where thousands of the company’s customers and software developers will gather.
“We just thought an audience would be interested in hearing from the man who was the leader of the free world during a period of the greatest technological innovation in history,” Oracle spokeswoman Jennifer Glass said.
Clinton’s speaking fee for the New Orleans appearance hasn’t been disclosed. Investment bankers Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. paid Clinton $100,000 to speak at a Florida conference last week.
Clinton has stayed in the headlines, and has been a nearly constant subject of criticism, since he left office.
On Capitol Hill, a House committee is expanding its investigation into Clinton’s pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, and a Senate panel is taking its own look at the pardon. At the White House, workers are sorting out gifts Clinton sent back under fire.
Even Clinton’s selection of office space in New York City became a matter of controversy. He went to Harlem on Tuesday to check out office space after his plan to rent a floor of a vastly more expensive building in midtown Manhattan was criticized.
And while other recent ex-presidents waited months before joining the paid lecture circuit, Clinton gave his first paid speech barely two weeks after leaving office. Morgan Stanley officials caught so much flak from clients that they apologized.
On Wednesday, there were reports that London-based firm UBS Warburg has backed away from having Clinton speak because of the controversies surrounding him.
If Clinton were to join Oracle’s board, it would make a lot of sense for both sides, according to business and political analysts.
With Clinton on its board, Oracle would gain the prestige and political clout of a former president, as well as a sharp mind, said Raymond Strother, a Democratic Party media consultant who worked with Clinton during his Arkansas campaigns for governor.
A Feather in His Cap?
Sitting on Oracle’s board also would represent a feather in Clinton’s cap because the company has emerged as one of the world’s technology leaders and looks like it will remain a force for years to come, said Joshua Greenbaum, an industry analyst with Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City.
With his resume, Clinton no doubt is getting inundated with offers from corporations that want him on their boards, said Strother, who believes Clinton would be wise to join Oracle.
“They represent the future and he will be better off linking himself to the future than the past,” Strother said.
Oracle might also have an inside track because of Ellison’s connections and kinship with Clinton. In November, Ellison hired Clinton’s former White House press secretary, Joe Lockhart, as Oracle’s communications director, a move that some believe foreshadowed Ellison’s interest in courting Clinton.
Unlike many Silicon Valley executives, Ellison hasn’t spent that much of his time or wealth publicly lobbying for his political agenda.
While contributing money to both the Democratic and Republican parties during the past eight years, Ellison openly supported Clinton, even through the various scandals that shadowed the former president.
Clinton’s checkered past and the recent controversies are unlikely to scare off Ellison, a mercurial character who has been entangled in a series of highly publicized dustups.
“Larry also gets picked on for various shenanigans,” Greenbaum said. “That’s why there might be a certain brotherhood developing between these two guys. There are some compelling reasons why these two might get along in the same boardroom.”