1. Blundering Hurd -- Originally published on Aug. 13, 2010
Thank you, Mark Hurd. The summer has been more dull than dumb until you and your friends Jodi and Larry came along.
The Hewlett-Packard CEO was sent packing by his board on Friday for falsifying documents in order to conceal an inappropriate connection with Jodi Fisher, a former contractor and B-movie actress, who claimed she was sexually harassed. Hurd, well known at HP for relentlessly cutting costs (and employees) also allegedly used his influence to make sure Fisher was paid for work she never performed.
That doesn't seem out of the ordinary, does it? CEO gets involved with a woman other than his wife and winds up paying the consequences. Pretty familiar territory, right?Wrong. This story gets stranger and sillier as it goes along. It turns out that Fisher, who starred in such cinematic classics as Body of Influence 2 and Intimate Obsession, was never intimate with Hurd at all, despite his wining, dining and expense-form forging. Fisher's mouthpiece, celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, released a statement saying she "never had an affair or intimate sexual relationship" with Hurd and that she was "surprised and saddened that Mark Hurd lost his job over this." Excuse us, Jodi. But lost his job over what? We still don't know what you two crazy cats did! And it's most likely we'll never know because you privately settled with Hurd, presumably for big bucks. The same can't be said for HP shareholders, though. They are paying quite publicly for Hurd's misbehavior and not just because the stock lost nearly 10% over the whole inane episode. Hurd's buddies on the board gave him a kingly sendoff package of $12.2 million in severance payments and a host of other goodies, including more time to exercise his 775,000 options and nearly 350,000 shares of restricted stock units. That's not a bad haul for a CEO who set the rules and was then dismissed for breaking them (although a messy exit does seem to fit the pattern for HP brass, considering what happened to former CEO Carly Fiorina and Chairwoman Patricia Dunn). In hard times like these, it's good to have a friend, however. And Hurd has a good one in Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. In an email to The New York Times, Ellison minced no words by saying the HP board made the "worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple (AAPL - Get Report) board fired Steve Jobs many years ago." Ellison added that the HP board "failed to act in the best interest of HP's employees, shareholders, customers and partners." Frankly, we don't what Larry knows about Hurd's harassment charge. He may know a lot more -- or a lot less -- than we do, but that's never stopped him before from prematurely weighing in on a subject that does not involve him. Truthful or not, HP general counsel Michael Holston would probably disagree with Ellison's account. On a conference call Friday with analysts, Holston said the facts that drove the decision to can Hurd "had to with integrity, had to do with credibility, had to do with honesty." Stop it, Mike. You are embarrassing yourself. This whole embarrassing affair had to do with infidelity, had to do with veracity and had to do with insincerity. And by denying it, and not revealing the truth, you are only adding to the stupidity. -- Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York.