As anyone familiar with Oracle founder Larry Ellison knows, he doesn’t like to lose
Karlin Lillington: No one in tech industry can count on smooth sailing
Larry Ellison, chief executive and founder of Oracle: losing the America’s Cup would be a major frustration for Ellison. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
“It” in this context is the America’s Cup, an elite sailing race that takes place every four years. The technology multibillionaire’s sailing team won the 33rd America’s Cup four years ago, so the 34th cup is being held in bay waters right off San Francisco (the winner gets to choose the location of the next competition).
The long lead-up to the finals – which should wrap up this week – has been a mini-drama in its own right, with plenty of brinkmanship between Ellison and the city over who would pay what towards the races, which crumbling pier areas would be redeveloped, and so on.
Doesn’t like to lose
In the end Ellison mostly got his way, despite it looking at one point as if the cup wouldn’t be coming to the City by the Bay at all. The sports and news media wrote at the time that the cup would go elsewhere but those who follow the tech industry knew better than to bet against Ellison. As anyone familiar with him knows, he doesn’t like to lose.
Now, only Oracle (Team USA) and Emirates (Team New Zealand) are left competing in the finals. New Zealand was, until last weekend, doing much better than Oracle. Then Oracle got its mojo back, making for some heroically exciting racing. Still, it faces a major challenge. The Kiwis only need to win two more races this week to take the cup; Oracle has to win a daunting eight.
Losing the cup would be a major frustration for Ellison just as Oracle’s annual conference, OpenWorld, is set to kick off. It starts next Sunday, with close to 50,000 expected to attend.
The city has seen less of the hoped-for tourist benefit. A sailing cup occurring during a dire recession drew fewer entries than past contests. Though the free-entry race village is bustling, it hasn’t exactly brought a tourist boom. Still, each day the papers carry letters of praise for the event; visitors and natives are enjoying the races, and Ellison’s deep-pocketed intention of promoting the sport has paid off.
Readers of the San Francisco Chronicle were treated to a detailed rundown of all the planning applications submitted by the builder working on what was described as Zuckerberg’s “manse” in the Dolores Heights neighbourhood.
Zuckerberg, whose personal wealth jumped by $9.6 billion (€7.1 billion) this year thanks to Facebook’s improving stock price (according to Forbes), also has a home in Menlo Park, near Facebook’s headquarters. But like many of the current crop of younger techies, he is attracted by San Francisco digs.
The flood of Valley workers into the city, symbolised by the courtesy buses laid on by companies to transport city-dwelling workers to their Valley workplaces, is controversial with many San Francisco residents. At one city protest this summer, people even smashed pinatas in the shape of Google’s white transport buses.
Some feel these well-heeled transplants drive up house prices and rents, while turning city neighbourhoods into bedroom communities that are dead for much of the day. But the situation is unlikely to change any time soon. A recent national survey indicates the under-35s in the US increasingly opt to live in cities, not suburbs. Tech workers are among the region’s best paid. And San Francisco is beautiful and exciting, unlike the typical San Jose suburb.
Still, the Valley just trumped San Francisco in one area: Apple Stores. The huge new Apple Store in Palo Alto’s upmarket Stanford Shopping Centre is a minimalist glass-and-steel box design, much larger than the San Francisco store off Union Square. It was also a stealth construction, with work going on behind enclosed walls. The general public did not know until the walls came down this month that it was an Apple Store.
It arrived just in time for Apple’s share price to hit turbulence following last week’s iPhone 5 announcements. It seems that no matter who you are in the tech industry, or how big and powerful, you can never count on smooth sailing.