Larry Ellison Cancels Marc Benioff’s Keynote at Oracle’s OpenWorld

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Well, well, well. The Oracle OpenWorld Conference is in full swing, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was scheduled to be one of the keynote speakers tomorrow (Wednesday). “Was” being the operative word here. Thanks to a recent update from Benioff’s Twitter account, it seems that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has cancelled Mr. Benioff’s keynote tomorrow.

Hmmm. Instead, Larry will be king of the stage, with a one hour and forty-five minute keynote, kicking off at 2:45 p.m. PST. No word as of yet on why Ellison cancelled the Salesforce CEO’s keynote. Not even Benioff was sure: “Sorry #oow11 I don’t know why….Larry just cancelled my keynote tomorrow! Join me@St.Regis AME Restaurant at 10:30AM! I’m disappointed too!”

As you might have garnered from his tweet, Benioff will likely instead be answering questions and interacting with the media at the Ame Restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m PST. We’ll be there to cover, and will be sure to share any helpful words of advice Benioff has for the man who just gave him the early hook, as they say in showbiz.

Now, we’re not in the business of speculating here, but (at least according to Forbes) Benioff upstaged Ellison last year at OpenWorld, poking holes in Oracle’s strategy, in relation to cloud computing specifically, and so there’s very definitely the possibility that Ellison doesn’t want that kind of mockery on stage before he presents a potentially expansive talk on the state of the cloud. Then again, why invite the Salesforce CEO to the conference if you’re just going to un-invite him?

Especially considering that (as reported by the New York Times) a keynote speech at a top conference like OpenWorld can cost the speaker up to 1 million big ones. Earlier this week, Benioff published a series of blog posts deriding Ellison’s opening remarks at OpenWorld (and has, in the past, been incited by Ellison who posted slides of Benioff’s book “Behind The Cloud, altering it to “Way Behind The Cloud”), told the NYT that he got an email from Oracle this afternoon about the cancellation — and also offering Benioff his million dollars back. Wouldn’t be surprised if the email included “and don’t let the door hit you on the way out”.

The cloud, it seems, is setting the stage for a rumble — as there are clearly at least two prominent executives out there who can’t agree on its future, and who has the keys to that future. (Or who has the keys to the “false cloud”.)

Whether strategic gamesmanship, or a “just because I can” move from Ellison, or perhaps just a scheduling mixup (yea, right), we’ll be tuning in tomorrow to see what unfolds. It should be interesting.

We’ve reached out to Oracle for comment, and will update when we learn more.

Update: Oracle Senior Director of Communications Deborah Hellinger told me that the cancellation of Benioff’s keynote was “due to the overwhelming attendance at Oracle OpenWorld”, which led to Oracle making several session changes. According to the Communications Director, the “Salesforce.com Executive Solution Session” will now take place on Thursday at 8:00 a.m. Benioff apparently has a prior commitment, so will be holding the Q&A session on Wednesday morning instead.

Excerpt image retrieved from SearchCloudComputing