Spinal Tap, Oracle CFOs, and Rick Sherlund

Goldman Sachs’ longtime software axe Rick Sherlund made a nice call this morning on the Greg Maffei issue at Oracle. With the four-month CFO announcing his departure from Oracle today (reportedly for a CEO job elsewhere), Sherlund’s comment to GS clients on Maffei’s recent absenteeism was spot-on and well-timed:

Oracle Co-President and CFO Greg Maffei has been away for over 2 weeks now, leading to the cancellation of the company’s analyst meeting on October 24th and an appearance at the GS Software Conference in NY next week. Mgt has not directly commented on the status of Mr. Maffei, other than to say there have been executive “scheduling conflicts” and “family issues”, with no direct reference to Mr. Maffei, who joined the company only 4 months ago, replacing Harry You who left after 9 months as CFO to become CEO of Bearing Point. Mgt. has refused to comment further, but last night Co- President Charles Phillips made comments at an investor conference and we have grown increasingly convinced that there are legitimate questions regarding Mr. Maffei’s status at the company. We believe the fundamentals of Oracle are intact, but cannot comment further at this time on the status of Mr. Maffei.

It increasingly strikes me that being a CFO at Oracle is a little like being a drummer in Spinal Tap. Mind you, no-one is alleging that Maffei imbibed anything that he shouldn’t have, and I have seen no indication of spontaneous human combustion.