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Larry Ellison Had a Tragic Childhood but Became One of the World’s Wealthiest People

Updated on January 11, 2018
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Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Larry Ellison is a tech mogul who has been extremely successful. His story is a true example of pursuing the American dream. Ellison was born into a poor family and given up for adoption. Two times he dropped out of college. In 1977, he co-founded the successful software company Oracle. Ellison is now regularly listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the top ten wealthiest people in the world. His fortune is currently estimated to be over $59 billion.

Child Photo of Larry Ellison
Child Photo of Larry Ellison

Early Life

Lawrence Joseph Ellison was born in New York City on August 17, 1944. His mother was Jewish, and his biological father was an Italian serving as a pilot in the US Army Air Corps. His parents were never married. When he was nine months old, Ellison developed pneumonia. His mother gave him to her sister and brother-in-law for adoption. Larry Ellison did not see his biological mother again until he was 48 years old. His adoptive mother was a warm and loving person. His adoptive father was cold and distant. The name Ellison was taken by his adoptive father as a way to honor immigrants who came to the United States through Ellis Island. His adoptive father was a government employee. At one time, he had made a significant amount of money being involved with Chicago real estate market. Unfortunately, Larry Ellison's adoptive father lost all his fortune during the great depression.

Religious Skeptic

The adoptive parents were dedicated followers of the Reform Jewish faith. Larry Ellison was regularly taken to synagogue, but he remained a skeptic when it came to religion. Ellison has told people he respects the individuals who believe in religion as literally true, but he personally sees no evidence of it. When he was thirteen, Ellison refused to participate in his bar mitzvah.

New York to Chicago

The family moved from New York to Chicago in the early 1960s. After High School, Ellison attended the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois. During his second year at the University, his adopted mother died. Ellison then stopped attending the college. He started attending the University of Chicago the following fall. Ellison quit attending there after a single semester. During this time, he learned about computer design. Ellison was 22 years old in 1966 when he decided to move to Northern California.

Early Adult

When Larry Ellison reached Berkeley, he has little money. He spent his time doing a variety of different jobs. His time in college and work experience provided Ellison with strong basic computer skills and programming knowledge. He was able to get work at places like Amdahl Corporation and Wells Fargo. While at Amdahl, Ellison was able to get a job as a programmer. This made it possible for him to work on the initial IBM-compatible mainframe system.

Larry Ellison speaking at event
Larry Ellison speaking at event


One of the projects he worked on during his time at Amdahl was a database for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Ellison called it Oracle. He was inspired by a paper he had read about relational database system written by Edgar F. Codd. Larry Ellison put up $1,200 for an investment with two partners. Their total combined investment was $2,000. The company they created was called Software Development Laboratories (SDL). They changed the company's name in 1979 to Relational Software Inc., and then their company was called Oracle Systems Corporation in 1982. The name was based on the company's identity product; the Oracle Database.

Initial Public Offering (IPO)

The IPO for Oracle was held in 1986. Unfortunately, some accounting issues eliminated most of Oracle's market capitalization. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy. What resulted from this incident was some significant changes in the company’s management. The company then created brand new versions of their products. Oracles refreshed products were extremely successful. Oracle became the leader in database management by 1992.


Oracle's most intense industry rival became Informix. This occurred when Informix overtook Sybase in 1994. The battle between the two companies was featured prominently in the business media for years. In 1997, Informix made public its significant revenue shortfall and had to create restatements of its earnings. The company's CEO went to jail. In 2001, Informix was then obtained by IBM.

Larry Ellison home in Japan
Larry Ellison home in Japan

One of The Wealthiest

The success of Oracle continued. Since Larry Ellison was one of the company's largest shareholders, he joined the ranks of the wealthiest people in the world. Ellison soon began to focus on obtaining other companies. During the following years, Oracle obtained many different companies including Siebel Systems, Sun Microsystems as well as PeopleSoft and others. These acquisitions enable Oracle to reach a market value of over $184 billion. In 2014, Oracle had over 125,000 employees.

Lawrence J. Ellison Ambulatory Care Center
Lawrence J. Ellison Ambulatory Care Center


Larry Ellison enjoys high-speed bicycling. In 1992, he seriously injured his elbow after a bicycle crash. This injury provided Ellison with a chance to meet Dr. Michael W. Chapman, a highly skilled orthopedic surgeon. Ellison found his care to be very good and was impressed. This resulted in Ellison donating over $4 million to start the Lawrence J. Ellison Musculoskeletal Research Center. On the UC Davis Medical Center, the Lawrence J. Ellison Ambulatory Care Center opened in 1998. In 2004, it was estimated Ellison donated approximately one percent of his personal wealth. In 2016, he donated over $190 million to the University of Southern California. This donation was for the creation of a cancer research center. It will be known as the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine.

Larry Ellison with America's Cup
Larry Ellison with America's Cup

America's Cup

In 2010, Larry Ellison joined with BMW to form a racing team called the BMW Oracle. This team won the prestigious America's cup for yachting. It was the first time in over 14 years the trophy was won by an American team. In 2013, the team was down seven points and a single point away from losing the America's Cup. What happened next made yachting competition history. The BMW Oracle team didn't give up and came back to win the America's Cup trophy.


Larry Ellison continues to be the CEO of Oracle. He also spends his time collecting cars. He has many private jets and an extremely impressive real-estate portfolio. It includes such holdings as a private golf club located in Rancho Mirage, California. Ellison also owns the former summer home for the Astor family. It is located in Newport, Rhode Island. He also owns a home located in Silicon Valley estimated to be worth over $69 million. In Kyoto, Japan he owns a historic garden villa. Ellison also purchased an entire island near Hawaii called Laian. His love of basketball has resulted in him installing basketball courts in two of the yachts he owns.


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