Thomas Kurian on extended leave from Oracle

Oracle president of product development Thomas Kurian, who grew up in Bengaluru and who was responsible for Oracle’s shift to the cloud, has taken an extended time off from the company.

Kurian enjoyed significant clout in the company, so much so that many saw him as a natural successor to Oracle founder Larry Ellison.

In an email to employees, Kurian said, “I am so very proud of all that we have accomplished together and so grateful for having had the opportunity to help you on that journey.” He did not specify when he would return to the firm, and some of the lines in the mail he sent to colleagues sounded like a farewell message. A company spokesperson was quoted as saying they hoped he would return soon.

Kurian was elevated as president three years ago, making him perhaps the single most senior executive in the company after co-CEOs Safra Catz and Mark Hurd. Kurian is an alumnus of the city’s St Joseph’s Boys High School. He holds a BA in electrical engineering from Princeton University, where he graduated summa cum laude (highest distinction). He also has an MBA from Stanford University, where he was an Arjay Miller scholar.

Some accounts suggest that Kurian may have stepped back to enable an enquiry into certain charges related to the cloud business. Florida-based pension fund, The City of Sunrise Firefighters’ Pension Fund, has filed a class action lawsuit in a US court against Oracle and executives Safra Catz, Mark Hurd, Larry Ellison, Thomas Kurian, and others, alleging that the growth in Oracle’s cloud revenues were driven, at least in part, by improper, coercive sales practices that included threatening existing customers with “audits” of their use of Oracle’s non-cloud software licenses and levying expensive penalties against those customers, unless the customers agreed to shift their business to Oracle cloud programs.

“These tactics alienated and angered the company’s customers,” the lawsuit said.

A few days prior to the lawsuit, Kurian had elected to defer settlement of significant amounts of performance stock awards to him. Kurian had received 412,500 performance stock units based on the achievement of performance targets for the fiscal year ending May 2018.

The number of earned performance stock units represented 110% of the target number of performance stock units eligible to be earned. The performance goal measured year-over-year growth in Oracle’s total revenues for its cloud business. A US SEC filing showed that Kurian had deferred this award. Kurian received $35.7 million in total compensation in the 2016-17 financial year.

Kurian’s first major engineering effort in Oracle was to develop the suite of Fusion Middleware, a business innovation platform for the enterprise and the cloud that enables enterprises to create and run applications maximising IT efficiency.

Though a late entrant to the cloud game, Kurian is credited with stitching together a comprehensive cloud strategy for the firm under Oracle Cloud Services that would integrate the software, hardware and services on customers’ behalf in IT environments that it deploys, supports and manages for the customer.

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