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Big donations to settle suit

REDWOOD SHORES, Calif. -- Oracle Corp. chief executive Larry Ellison has agreed to donate $100 million to charities to settle a lawsuit revolving around a $900 million gain that he made by selling some of his company stock after the dot-com bust.

The settlement, confirmed yesterday by an attorney who filed the suit, still requires the approval of Superior Court Judge John Schwartz. A hearing was scheduled for Sept. 26.

Under the unusual agreement, Ellison -- one of the world's richest men -- will make the donations on behalf of Oracle during the next five months, said Joseph Tabacco Jr., a San Francisco lawyer involved in the case. The charities will be selected by Ellison and Oracle.

Tabacco and the other lawyers in the case will be paid an additional $22.5 million in legal fees if Schwartz approves the deal.

The case revolves around some of the Oracle stock that Ellison sold in 2001 after he and other top executives predicted that the business software maker would produce better results than the company ultimately delivered.

Like many other high-tech companies, Oracle's sales sagged that year amid the aftershocks of the dot-com implosion that wiped out hundreds of companies. Oracle's shares plunged by 52 percent in 2001, wiping out about $85 billion in shareholder wealth.

Ellison's decision to cash out some of his stock sparked a wave of suits alleging that he was attempting to capitalize on projections about Oracle's sales outlook that hadn't been made available to other investors. Ellison has denied the allegations.

In agreeing to settle the case, Ellison isn't admitting to any wrongdoing. Oracle spokesman Bob Wynne declined to comment on the proposed settlement.

Similar suits are still pending in federal court and Delaware state court.

''We think this is a very innovative settlement, given the uncertainties of a trial," Tabacco said.

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