Lawrence Joseph Ellison (b. 1944) was born in New York and raised in Chicago by his aunt and uncle, who were his adoptive parents. Ellison studied computer programming at the University of Illinois but dropped out following the death of his adoptive mother. He moved to California shortly after, and bounced from one job to the next for eight years before settling at the Ampex Corporation. There, he worked on a project (code-named “Oracle”) to create database software for the CIA. A few years later, he put in $1200 of his own money (and $800 from two partners) to start a new company, Software Development Laboratories. By 1982, IBM started using their program and the company (now renamed Oracle Systems Corporation) was making millions. At the end of the first decade of the new millennium, Ellison was ranked as the highest-paid executive of any company, earning nearly $2 billion. Between 1997 and 2002, he was on the board of directors of Apple. In 2010, Ellison had Oracle acquire Sun Microsystems, another tech giant, for $7.4 billion. The following year, Forbes ranked Ellison the 5th richest person in the world. Aside from business, Ellison is a cup-winning yacht sailor, and a licensed pilot who owns two fighter planes. He has vast real estate holdings, and owns 98% of Lanai, the sixth largest island in Hawaii. Most importantly, Ellison is a huge philanthropist. By 2004, it was estimated that he had donated over $150 million. Since then, he has donated many millions more, including $10 million to the IDF, whom he described as “some of the bravest people in the world”. Most recently, Ellison donated a whopping $200 million to create a new cancer research centre at the University of Southern California. He has pledged to give as much as 95% of his wealth. Interestingly, he has also spent hundreds of millions on anti-aging research, saying that “death makes me very angry”.
Words of the Week
To become old is a grave sin. – Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
Listed by Forbes among the richest people in the world, Ralph Lauren (b. 1939) was born Ralph Lifshitz to Polish-Belorussian immigrants in the Bronx. He began selling ties to his classmates at the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy. Lauren then studied at Baruch College, followed by several years in the US Army, after which he became a tie salesman. For a long time he would struggle to make a living, until he was finally able to open his own tie store in 1967, called Polo. As his success grew, Lauren released several men’s clothing lines. Today, Polo Ralph Lauren is a multi-billion dollar company. Interestingly, Lauren owns a rare car collection with over 70 unique vehicles – one of the greatest collections in the world. He is also a knight of the French legion.
A fellow New Yorker, Karl Anderson (b. 1959) was born to a Swedish father and Jewish mother. He changed his name to Michael Kors at age 5 when his mother remarried. Influenced by his mother’s modelling career, Kors began designing clothes as a teen and selling them out of his parents’ basement. He was discovered soon after while studying at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. After working for French fashion giant Celine for many years, Kors left to focus on his own label, which has quickly grown to huge popularity globally. Aside from the fashion world, Kors received the Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research.
Words of the Week
You create your own universe as you go along. – Winston Churchill