Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two of the world’s wealthiest people, are attempting to convince fellow billionaires to donate more to charity.  Their “giving pledge” campaign aims to recruit others to promise to give half or more of their assets at some point to whatever set of causes appeals to them.  Gates and Buffet have set an example by pledging almost all of their wealth to charitable foundations. 

Reading about this set me thinking about what might eventually happen to the almost as vast amount of wealth the Larry Ellison continues to accumulate.  It is hard to imagine what Ellison could possibly want that he does not already own, especially after out-spending everyone else to finally secure the Americas Cup.  There is little evidence that his heirs want or need tens of billions to feel fulfilled. 

Publically available information indicates that Ellison has quietly given away hundreds of millions of dollars.  Large donations have benefited education around the world and medical research into aging.  As great as this generosity has been so far, it appears to have represented only small fraction of his massive wealth. 

The Sun acquisition has led Oracle down a new path – one where it is trying to entice us to depend on it for an ever increasing percentage of the IT products we use.  The amount customers will feel comfortable buying will to some degree depend on the opinion they have of Oracle.  Right or wrong, much of that opinion continues to be based on feelings about Ellison. 

I have formed the opinion that Oracle’s public image is slow in catching up with the reality of what it has become.  Oracle today appears to be a well-managed, generous and responsible organization – a description that might not have fit it a decade or more ago when opinions about it were formulated in the minds of many people that make buying decisions today. 

If Ellison were to commit a major part of his personal wealth to causes that interest him (beyond sailing faster than other rich guys) the impact on his own image and that of Oracle might change very rapidly.  Doing so more publically than he is used to would be necessary.  It could even help inspire some of his peers to join in. 

I doubt if Gates has called Larry Ellison yet given the intense rivalry and very frosty professional relationship between them.  It does not matter if Ellison ties any increasingly visible generosity to this particular effort. 

It also strikes me that whenever Ellison decides to focus more on charitable giving that he will be driven to find ways to do it more effectively than Gates.  A competition between them as to who can benefit mankind the most would be wonderful to watch – and a great thing for a world that has no shortage of worthwhile problems to be fixed.