Is Oracle (ORCL) CEO Lawrence Ellison learning to share power? Oracle's board announced on Jan. 12 that Safra Catz and Charles Phillips will split the job of president at the Silicon Valley software giant. Catz and Phillips, both former bankers, are filling a position that has been vacant since Raymond Lane, now a venture capitalist, was forced out more than three years ago. Oracle watchers speculate that Catz and Phillips are front-runners to replace Ellison, though the 59-year-old has given no indication he plans to leave.
Ellison is also handing his chairman's role to Jeffrey Henley, Oracle's longtime chief financial officer. Henley will retire as CFO once Oracle finds a replacement. Splitting the CEO and chairman titles is a nod toward a more independent board. But governance experts note that giving Henley the chairman's job doesn't bring an outsider to the board. Perhaps Ellison, a newlywed, wants to spend more time outside the office. Tax cheats had better watch out. On Jan. 13, the Treasury Dept. announced a series of tax reforms in the President's fiscal 2005 proposed budget. Besides increasing penalties for failing to disclose potential tax shelters, the Administration wants to eliminate a number of loopholes. It hopes to stop an abuse of foreign tax credits that it says will generate $1 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. It also would end the sale of tax benefits by untaxed municipalities and others to corporations, yielding an estimated gain of $33.7 billion. The Treasury also seeks the right to use private collection agencies, and an Internal Revenue Service budget of $10.7 billion, an increase of 4.8%. DaimlerChrysler's (DCX) Chrysler Group has halted sales of some of its newly redesigned Dodge Durango sport-utility vehicles because of a potentially dangerous flaw in the throttle. Water can get into the 2004 Durango's throttle cable and freeze, causing the throttle to stick open, which could cause a crash. Chrysler says it knows of one accident and no injuries resulting from this problem. The recall covers 21,000 Durangos with 3.7- and 4.7-liter engines (but not the 5.7-liter Hemi). However, only about 5,000 of the SUVs are in customers' hands. The company is also recalling 2.7 million 1993-99 Dodges, Chryslers, and Plymouths to fix a faulty shifter that could allow the cars to roll when parked. Continuing its multipronged attack on mutual-fund abuses, the Securities & Exchange Commission on Jan. 14 proposed new rules to strengthen the independence of fund boards of directors. If the rules are approved, three-quarters of a fund's directors and its chairman would have to be unaffiliated with the management company that sponsors the fund. The SEC also proposed a requirement that brokers reveal special pay and incentives they receive for selling certain funds. Agency officials are investigating revenue-sharing deals involving eight big brokerage firms and a dozen mutual funds. Corporate spending remains weak, but that didn't prevent Intel (INTC) from beating Wall Street's expectations with stellar profits on Jan. 14. For the fiscal fourth quarter ended Dec. 27, Santa Clara (Calif.)-based Intel's net income soared 107%, to $2.17 billion, or 33 cents a share, on a 22% gain in revenues, to $8.74 billion. During the quarter, Intel took a $611 million charge to write down the value of a company it acquired four years ago. For the year, Intel reported net income of $5.64 billion, or 85 cents a share, an 81% rise. Revenues rose 13%, to $30.1 billion. Intel's investments to reduce the cost of production, plus record demand, led to juicy 64% margins. Even in the traditionally slow first quarter, Intel expects relatively strong sales around the world. -- Guess? (GES) co-founders Maurice and Paul Marciano will reduce their stake in the company to 55% from 68%.
-- Charles Townsend was promoted to CEO of Cond? Nast from COO.
-- KPMG said that Jeff Stein, the former leader of its tax practice, is retiring. AT&T Wireless (AWE) shares climbed 23%, to $9.99, in the two trading days ended Jan. 14 on news that long-running talks with Cingular Wireless are gaining momentum and could lead to a deal soon. One wild card: Another suitor could come between the two.