Mark Hurd to Oracle? Don't be surprised

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison defends Mark Hurd and says HP's board just made the worst personnel decision since Apple booted Steve Jobs. Will Ellison hire Hurd to run Oracle's hardware business?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Throughout the Hewlett-Packard saga surrounding Mark Hurd's resignation as CEO, something seemed off. My question from the very beginning was whether other companies would have ousted Hurd.

Specifically, I couldn't help but wonder: What would Oracle do?

Now we have a definitive answer. Amid reports that HP's board of directors primarily relied on counsel from a public relations firm to make the call on Hurd, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison fired off a missive to the New York Times (Techmeme). The gist: HP's board was downright idiotic for ditching Hurd for a sexual harassment claim that had little merit and fudged expense reports.

Quote of the day goes to Ellison:

The H-P Board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago. That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn’t come back and saved them. H-P had a long list of failed CEOs until they hired Mark who has spent the last five years doing a brilliant job reviving H-P to its former greatness.

If you read between the lines, you see that Ellison is defending a friend and colleague and floating a trial balloon. If Ellison finds backers, don't be surprised if he hires Hurd. The only wild card---and it's a big one---is whether Hurd would want to be something other than a CEO. The following quote makes it really clear where Ellison stands:

Publishing known false sexual harassment claims is not good corporate governance; its cowardly corporate political correctness. Those six directors caused H-P to lose a nearly irreplaceable CEO. Those six directors who voted against Mark can try hard to hide behind a claim of “good corporate governance” but their decision has already cost H-P shareholders over $10 billion … and my guess it’s going to cost them a lot more.

Simply put, it wouldn't be a surprise if Hurd somehow winds up at Oracle. Clearly, Ellison is willing to put shareholder value over headline risks. Let's put the moving parts together.

  • Ellison would have a dream team with Hurd, Safra Catz and Charles Phillips.
  • Hurd could run Oracle's hardware business and eliminate the hardware distraction for management.
  • Hurd could give Oracle the know-how to become an efficient hardware company and build off of the Sun deal. What would Hurd do with an army of Exadata machines?
  • Hurd and Ellison have a mutual nemesis: IBM. If Hurd joins Oracle you can add HP to that list too.
  • And Hurd likes to acquire assets almost as much as Ellison. At HP, Hurd orchestrated the purchases of EDS, 3Com and Palm. Oracle hasn't been shy about saying that Sun was just the beginning of hardware acquisitions.

Add it up and a Hurd to Oracle move makes a lot of sense. Oracle strengthens its management bench and maybe even provides for a little succession planning for Ellison---just in case he wants to completely focus on his yacht in the future. Ellison's bio seems to indicate that he at least thinks about a little succession planning.

Hell, Bob Warfield asks whether Oracle could even buy HP. Hire Hurd, buy HP. Crazy thoughts, but not impossible.

More: Ethics of Exit - two opposing views on HP's ousting of Hurd

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