Friday, August 13, 2010

Oracle's Ellison Says Ouster of Hurd Like Apple Firing Jobs


Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison said Hewlett-Packard Co.’s board was wrong to force the resignation of CEO Mark Hurd, comparing the move to the firing of Steve Jobs in the 1980s.

In a letter to the New York Times, Ellison said, “The HP board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago.”

Hurd left HP last week after a contractor named Jodie Fisher, who helped organize executive events, made a claim of sexual harassment against him. While the board determined that he didn’t violate the harassment policy, it found that he made inaccurate expense reports and concealed a personal relationship with Fisher, a former actress and reality TV contestant.

“In losing Mark Hurd, the HP board failed to act in the best interest of HP’s employees, shareholders, customers and partners,” Ellison, a friend of Hurd, said in the letter. “The HP board admits that it fully investigated the sexual harassment claims against Mark and found them to be utterly false.”

According to Ellison, the board was split 6-to-4 over whether to disclose the sexual-harassment claim. The directors later decided to make the decision unanimous, Ellison said.

Mylene Mangalindan, a spokeswoman for Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard, said the board was unified in seeking Hurd’s resignation for violations of HP’s business- conduct standards.

‘Only Vote’

“As the company stated previously, the board voted unanimously for Mr. Hurd’s resignation,” she said. “And that was the only vote the board took on this issue.”

Karen Tillman, a spokeswoman for Redwood City, California- based Oracle, didn’t immediately respond to a request for a copy of Ellison’s letter.

“Unless he’s a member of this board of directors and has a track record where it counts, his opinion should be taken with a grain of salt,” said HP investor Michael Cuggino, president of Permanent Portfolio Funds, which owned 713,000 shares of HP as of last week. “We are monitoring developments and continue to determine whether HP stock is worthy of us holding it in the long term.”

HP, the world’s largest personal-computer maker, said Hurd submitted expense reports that hid his relationship with Fisher. The expenses, which ranged between $1,000 and $20,000, were for meals and travel, and Hurd intends to pay back the total, according to a person familiar with the matter.

No Affair

Fisher didn’t have “an affair or intimate sexual relationship” with Hurd, she said in a statement released by her lawyer, Gloria Allred.

Allred described Fisher as “a single mom focused on raising her young son. She has a degree in political science from Texas Tech and was recently the vice president of a commercial real estate company.”

Fisher worked on the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, Allred said. Fisher also has appeared as an actress in such films as 1992’s “Intimate Obsession,” “Body of Influence 2” and “Sheer Passion,” according to her Internet Movie Database page, which lists her age as 50.

Cathie Lesjak, HP’s chief financial officer, took over as interim CEO last week while the Palo Alto, California-based company seeks a new leader.

Apple Inc. fired Jobs in 1985 after he clashed with CEO John Sculley. He returned to the company 12 years later to lead a comeback, building it into the most valuable technology business in the world.

“That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn’t come back and saved them,” Ellison wrote.