Larry Ellison, who quit Apple's board of directors in September 2002, is handing over the Oracle chairmanship to the company's chief financial officer, Jeff Henley, Oracle has announced. Ellison remains chief executive of the company.

In addition two executives, Safra Catz and Charles Phillips, were appointed as company presidents reporting to Ellison, Oracle said. The database giant has been without a president since Ray Lane left in June 2000 to work at a venture capital firm.

With Henley's promotion to chairman the Redwood Shores, California, company is now seeking a new CFO. Henley, a 13-year Oracle veteran, will fill the role until a successor is found. The new appointments are effective immediately, the company said.

BI Research industry analyst Colin White said: "Oracle has struggled since Lane's departure. Monday's management shuffle appears to be an attempt to bring fresh ideas to the company's executive team, which has been dominated by Ellison's larger-than-life personality."

"It certainly suggests that Larry's been taken out of the driving seat to a certain extent," White added.

Since Lane's departure, Oracle has been criticized for lacking depth in its management team. White suggested: "By appointing three executives to such senior roles, Oracle is now hoping to rebut such criticism. It sounds like basically what is happening is they're saying, 'We need life after Ellison'."

Catz will retain her role as Oracle's head of global operations, and Phillips will be in charge of the company's sales, marketing, and consulting operations, Oracle said. The decisions were made at a meeting of Oracle's board Monday.

Catz and Phillips' promotions were made "in recognition of the enormous contributions" they have made at Oracle, said company spokeswoman Jennifer Glass. She disputed the claim that Oracle's senior management team lacked depth. "Oracle has been criticized for that for years. We think we have enormous bench strength and always have," she said.

Ellison described Henley as an "expert on corporate governance and accounting" and said his knowledge and experience make him "ideally qualified to become Oracle's chairman".