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Oracle Hunger Games: Larry Ellison Creates Co-CEOs

Hurd (left) and Catz in 2010
Hurd (left) and Catz in 2010Photograph by Paul Sakuma/AP Photo

Larry Ellison loves a good game. Even in stepping down as chief executive officer on Thursday, Oracle’s co-founder has created another opportunity to compete. How else to explain the Faustian pact he’s struck with successors Mark Hurd and Safra Catz? The new CEOs, both of whom were previously presidents, now find themselves in the unenviable position of being forced to share the top job.

Eventually, one is likely to go—or both will. The problem isn’t just that dual leaders create confusion for employees, customers, and practically everyone else who has to deal with them. As University of Michigan management professor Noel Tichy points out, the co-CEO title is especially irritating to those who have it. “It set ups a very funky dynamic with people who, at the end of the day, have been bred to want the gold ring,” says Tichy, who has just written a book on succession.