Oracle Exec Poached From AWS After Battle With Catz Over Budgets
- Ariel Kelman, Oracle’s top marketing executive from AWS, left the database giant in June.
- Sources say his departure comes after a dispute with CEO Safra Catz over budgets.
- Kelman had led some unlikely marketing deals for Oracle, such as pushing deeper into sports sponsorships.
It’s been a time of turmoil for thousands of Oracle employees as the company began layoffs this week, gutting entire teams and reorganizing others, according to multiple current and former employees. Workers have described the atmosphere as chaotic and demoralizing.
None of the units has been hit harder than Oracle’s marketing division, especially those that run marketing functions for advertising, marketing and customer experience (CX) products, sources told Insider.
The layoffs come after chief marketing officer Ariel Kelman left in June, multiple people told Insider. Kelman’s departure came as a surprise to many within his unit, sources say, with no formal communication about his departure.
“Everything was going great and suddenly Ariel left,” said one person who worked at Oracle in marketing at the time. “And then it went dark. Nobody said anything to us.”
A second marketing person at the time described the atmosphere around Kelman as “very quiet,” forcing marketing staff to discuss the news on Zoom, outside of the company’s official Slack channels.
When Kelman was hired in January 2020, it was seen as something of a coup for Oracle to poach one of AWS’s top marketing executives. Oracle offered Kelman a “unique opportunity to build a marketing department and participate in an ongoing cloud transformation project at one of the most important technology companies of the last 30 years,” Kelman told Insider in August 2020.
But three people said Kelman’s departure came after a dispute with Oracle CEO Safra Catz over cloud marketing spending. Oracle and Kelman responded to requests for comment.
“They claim Ariel Kelman is overspent, overcommitted,” said a person familiar with the marketing organization.
Kelman led explosive marketing deals for Oracle such as pushing deeper into sports sponsorships.
In February, the Red Bull Formula 1 motor racing team was announced that Oracle had become the title sponsor and the team was changing its name to Oracle Red Bull Racing. The Red Bull F1 team is one of the sport’s top teams, so such a major naming deal wouldn’t come cheap: Terms weren’t disclosed, but the AP reported that Oracle had committed $500 million in technology over five years.
Oracle was already his sponsor Golden State Warriors basketball team and is also its sponsor Premier Leagueand SailGP.
But according to one person in the know, marketing budgets for various products during Kelman’s tenure—even for groups that followed tried-and-true sales tactics like industry conferences—had dwindled to almost nothing. Groups that wanted to attend conferences to pitch their products to potential customers were told to use other budgets, such as those belonging to the sales team, this person said.
A source fired during the latest rounds of layoffs said lackluster marketing support made it difficult for some of Oracle’s cloud products to compete.
“We didn’t invest in the right advertising, like YouTube ads and Google ads and TV ads,” this source said. “Salesforce and Adobe people are out there touting their stuff.”
Other senior marketing executives, including those hired by AWS, have also been fired, sources said. Kelman’s former teams now fall under the purview of Jason Maynard, who was senior sales and marketing leader for Oracle’s NetSuite business management software.
Read the full story: Oracle insiders describe ‘total chaos’ of layoffs, restructuring as workers brace for more
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