September 9, 1998 9:20 PM PDT

Ellison: I could have owned Apple

REDWOOD SHORES, California--If not for some lawyerly advice, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison would today be a proud owner of Apple Computer.

"I was at DLJ's offices [investment firm Donaldson, Luffkin & Jenrette] and I wanted to buy it [Apple] at $13 a share but my lawyer said I knew too much," Ellison revealed this afternoon, referring to insider knowledge about the Cupertino PC maker that stems from his friendship with interim CEO Steve Jobs. At the time, Jobs was working as a consultant to Apple and then-CEO Gil Amelio, following Apple's acquisition of Next.

While Ellison was very public about his intention to acquire Apple last year--he would have made his play for a majority stake by forming an independent investor group--he hasn't previously said why he aborted his plan. Apparently his lawyer advised him that if he proceeded with the deal he would be spending a lot of time answering questions from the Justice Department.

"I decided it just wasn't that much to me to deal with Justice lawyers. I walked away from a deal to buy Apple Computer at $13 a share," he said.

Ellison, who is now on Apple's board, also said today that Jobs is not going to walk away from his interim-CEO job anytime soon. "I don't know how long he is going to stay, because I don't think Steve knows?but I don't see him leaving anytime soon," he said.

Given that Jobs is getting all the credit for turning Apple around--the iMac is a hot seller, the company is once again profitable, and the stock recently hit a 52-week high--it's no surprise that he has no immediate plans to leave.

Ellison said there are definite plans to leverage the iMac's popularity. For one thing Apple has to get a cheaper version of this Mac into the market, he said.

 

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