Adviser warned Ellison to watch his $1bn credit limit

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The Independent Online

Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder of Oracle computers and one of America's richest men, has been told by his accountant to budget better.

E-mails obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper show that Mr Ellison's lavish lifestyle gave Philip Simon, his personal financial adviser, sleepless nights.

Documents opened by a US judge in a lawsuit brought by Oracle shareholders reveal that Mr Ellison routinely took his credit close to its limit of more than $1bn (£560m).

Mr Simon wrote in 2002: "I'm worried, Larry. I think it's imperative that we start to budget and plan."

Mr Ellison spent $194m over three years on a new yacht, and bought homes in Malibu for a reported $180m and a Japanese-style estate complete with a reproduction of a 17th-century teahouse for an estimated $200m. He also spent$20m a year on miscellaneous lifestyle expenses.

He can, of course, afford it. Mr Ellison is America's fifth-richest man, worth an estimated $17bn, mainly held in Oracle shares.

But his preference to borrow against his holding in the company he founded in 1977, rather than divesting shares, has given Mr Simon sleepless nights. He worried that Mr Ellison might get himself into hot water like other American bosses who have funded their lifestyles in this way.

He wrote: "I don't want you to end up like ... Bernie Ebbers, and the countless others."

Ebbers is the former head of the failed telecoms carrier WorldCom, who borrowed heavily against his shares, before resigning in disgrace and being convicted of securities fraud.

The legal dispute that brought Mr Ellison's e-mails to light was a shareholder action that accused him of insider dealing when he sold 29 million Oracle shares in January 2001, only weeks before a disappointing earnings statement that unsettled the stock.

The sale made the Oracle chief almost $900m. The action was settled after Mr Ellison agreed to give $100m to charity and pay $22m in legal costs.