Oracle Corp. Chairman Larry Ellison testified in a lawsuit on Wednesday that he didn’t call the shots at the company he co-founded and in which he holds a 40% stake and was not involved in discussing the acquisition at the center of the dispute.

The investor suit, brought in a Delaware court by a pension fund, accuses the 8th-richest American and others at Oracle of overpaying by $3 billion for rival software maker NetSuite Inc. in 2016. Ellison owned 47% of NetSuite at the time of the $9.3 billion deal and held about 28% of Oracle’s shares. 

The Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis, an Oracle investor, sued Ellison and the company’s board in 2017 to challenge the acquisition. The case, known as a derivative suit, was brought on behalf of the company, so any money recovered will be returned to Oracle. The company didn’t respond to an email and phone call seeking comment on the case. 

A win by the shareholders could force changes to management or the board, or result in an award that would boost the value of the company. As a significant shareholder, Ellison would benefit from any increased value in the company, but that might be offset by any amount he’d be forced to pay -- although payouts are often covered by insurance, said Eric Talley, a professor at Columbia Law School who specializes in corporate and transactional law.

Appearing remotely, Ellison was pressed repeatedly on the plaintiff’s assertion that he remained Oracle’s chief decision-maker even after stepping down as chief executive officer in 2014 and becoming chief technology officer. Lawyers played clips of his successor as CEO and erstwhile boss, Safra Catz, in which she suggested Ellison continued to hold sway.

“Larry Ellison is it,” Catz was shown saying in a 2018 excerpt. “Don’t let titles fool you.”

Ellison, speaking calmly, said Oracle’s board and top managers didn’t defer to him after he stepped down as CEO, adding that there were many instances in which he did not get his way. “The idea that these people just blindly do what I tell them is just not true,” he testified.

Under questioning earlier in the day from a defense lawyer, Ellison also said that he had recused himself from discussions at both companies related to the NetSuite acquisition.

The billionaire said under cross-examination by fund lawyer Randy Baron that he stepped back from the NetSuite deal and gave up his rights to block higher offers for the software maker to eliminate any appearance of a conflict. 

“I would have been very vulnerable if I didn’t recuse myself on both sides of this transaction,” Ellison said.

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