Ellison, James Bond of the dotcom billionaires, marries romantic novelist

He has been described as the James Bond of the dotcom generation. A multi-billionaire who was briefly the richest man in the world, he is a lover of fast cars who won the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and is investing millions in trying to find a cure for ageing.

In short Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, is everything that Bill Gates of Microsoft is not. And, with a personal fortune of £18bn, Mr Ellison was considered among the world's most eligible bachelors, until his secret was revealed yesterday: just before Christmas the Silicon Valley tycoon wed his fiancée of several years, Melanie Craft, a romantic novelist.

Ms Craft could hardly have dreamt of her present lifestyle when as a younger woman she worked as sales clerk, a bartender, a pastry chef, a cocktail waitress and a housecleaner. She even briefly held a job as a Swahili teacher, although she admits she did not speak it.

Her website says the writer "lives near San Francisco with two cats, nine ducks, and her fiancé", who is not identified as Lawrence J Ellison. But she has given a few clues about the identity of her other half. Her first novel, A Hard-hearted Man, revolves around an affair between an entrepreneur and the first woman to challenge him.

The blurb says: "Ross Bradford exuded wealth, power and sophisticated charm. He had a head for business and an eye for beauty, but it was his heart he never trusted and no one could ever breach. Until he encountered Dr Lilah Evans, the most stubborn and desirable woman ever to challenge him ..."

The 2003 follow-up, Trust Me, also appeared to have an autobiographical feel, with its dual themes of multiple pets and vast wealth. "Veterinarian Carly Martin is a soft touch when it comes to animals," the website says. "And no animals need her more than the 35 pets left in her care after eccentric millionaire Henry Tremayne falls and slips into a coma. If only she weren't as susceptible to his long-lost grandson, Max Giordano ..."

Ms Craft's next offering, Man Trouble, is due in May and, strangely enough, deals with the theme of a romance author attempting to seduce a billionaire. The blurb says: "Molly Shaw's got a secret. By day she's a history professor; by night she's best-selling romance author Sandra St Claire. And never the twain shall meet. Until a journalist friend asks her to pull off the seduction of the century: get the scoop on billionaire playboy Jake Berenger by posing as his ideal woman ..." Ms Craft says the story was inspired by a newspaper article which suggested she was an invention designed to soften Mr Ellison's image.

The couple married beside a waterfall at Mr Ellison's 45-acre Japanese-style compound in California. The tycoon's best friend Steve Jobs, founder of the Apple computer company, was among the few guests and took the wedding photographs. At 34, Ms Craft is 25 years younger than the Oracle chief. Cruel commentators suggested her background in archaeology - which she studied at the American University in Cairo - may stand her in good stead.

But Mr Ellison has no plans to grow old. He is pouring money into the coffers of scientists researching the hormone DHEA, which some believe may slow ageing.

But he is living life at break-neck speed. "Extravagant" and "flamboyant" are among the words often used to describe him. A friend of former US President Bill Clinton, he spent $40m on five luxury beachside houses in Malibu, Los Angeles, with a view to knocking them into a single abode. He owns four homes, three planes (he once tried to buy a MiG fighter but was refused permission by the US authorities) and at least seven boats. Ms Craft is his fourth wife.

Mr Ellison, son of a teenage mother, was sent away to be brought up by distant relatives in Chicago and told by his adoptive father that he would never amount to anything.

He now craves to be the richest man in the world. This desire to be "number one" is not about money, he says, but doing his best for the company he founded in 1977.

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