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In truce, Hurd gets HP’s all-clear for Oracle job
The deal announced Monday will cost Hurd $14 million in stock that was part of his HP severance package. But he’s not hurting: He’s already profited richly from his forced exit from HP, and stands to make millions of dollars more than he’s giving up.
The deal lets HP save face over the handling of Hurd’s ouster. It also removes the specter of a long court battle over whether Hurd, with his trove of secrets about HP, could be barred from working at Oracle as a co-president, reporting to Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison.
The companies collaborated for decades to make sure HP’s hardware worked smoothly with Oracle’s software, amassing 140,000 joint customers. But Oracle is now going head-to-head with HP in computer servers, a business Oracle jumped into with its $7.3 billion acquisition this year of Sun Microsystems. Hurd’s hiring added a very public dimension to the budding rivalry.
HP’s board pressured Hurd to resign in August, even after it found no merit to a sexual harassment claim brought by a former marketing contractor. The board uncovered inaccurate expense reports related to the former CEO’s dinners with the contractor; Hurd insists he didn’t prepare his own reports and points to others that included his accuser’s name.
Ellison, Hurd’s tennis buddy, came to his defense early on, calling HP’s decision to oust its CEO the worst personnel decision since Apple Inc. forced out Steve Jobs _ another of Ellison’s friends _ 25 years ago. Jobs later returned and rescued Apple from an ugly slump.
When Oracle hired Hurd earlier this month, it sent the rivalry into overdrive. HP sued Hurd, saying he wouldn’t be able to do the job without spilling the wealth of inside information he absorbed in five years atop HP.
After publicly scolding HP’s board for its “vindictive” legal action, Ellison privately called HP director Marc Andreessen to start negotiating a settlement of the Hurd lawsuit, according to a person familiar the talks. The person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger declined to comment on how the settlement came about.
Previous legal precedents made it unlikely that HP could have prevailed in the case, but Oracle probably realized the lawsuit could have distracted Hurd for months, said New York employment lawyer Stephen Kramarsky.
“I don’t see this as a big win or a big loss for either side,” Kramarsky said. “It was probably more about realizing that these two companies have a very important business relationship, so what’s $14 million among friends?”
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