TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: Even though he just got out of legal trouble, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd is still going to be seeing a lot of his lawyer. A month after Hurd resigned from HP over some ethics charges, he’s being sued by HP over his new job. Oracle announced last night it’s hired Hurd as its new co-president. The lawsuit says Hurd will almost certainly wind up sharing HP’s trade secrets with his new employer.
We’ve got Marketplace’s Steve Henn on the line to find out why Oracle hired Hurd. Hey Steve.
Steve Henn: Hey.
Ryssdal: OK, so this lawsuit aside, Mark Hurd has a new gig.
Henn: Yeah, that’s right. He’s been appointed co-president of Oracle, by his good friend and his chief defender Larry Ellison. You might remember Ellison came out in Hurd’s defense when Hurd got in trouble a month ago. He really actually went out of his way. He e-mailed a statement to reporters calling HP’s decision to fire Hurd “the worst personnel decision since the idiots on Apple’s board fired Steve Jobs.”
Ryssdal: And it did actually work out pretty well for Steve Jobs. What’s he going to do at Oracle though?
Henn: Well, Oracle just bought Sun Microsystems. And you know, Sun is a hardware company — they make servers for companies. That’s not a business that Oracle has been in until now; they made software. So, Sun’s been struggling. It faces tough competition from IBM and from HP. So there’s a lot of thought that one of Hurd’s jobs — if not his chief job — will be to run this business, to start gobbling up market share from his former employers at HP and to make sure that Sun runs as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Ryssdal: And that’s what Hurd was known for at HP, making things run very very efficiently.
Henn: Yeah, he was the guy who could make the trains run on time. Now, he wasn’t really popular here in Silicon Valley. He laid a lot of people off, cut a lot of jobs and salaries at HP and there was a rap that he didn’t invest enough in research and development, and kind of undermined the HP way, which was like a religion here. But, Wall Street just loves this guy. He delivered consistent results, while he was running HP. Its stock price basically doubled during his tenure, and you can see that in the reaction today.
Ryssdal: Yeah, I mean, Oracle’s shares were up today; investors clearly liked this. But let me ask you the ethics question: Here we have a guy who was allowed to resign over ethics charges and a month later, his body comes in and says, “I’m gonna hire you anyway, ethics scmethics. I just want to make some money.” What does that say about corporate America today?
Henn: Well, I think in the case of Oracle and its investors, they’re focused on Hurd’s ability to get things done. During his tenure at HP, the stock price soared, it became the largest technology company in the world. And in comparison, they’re willing to overlook $10,000, $20,000 in misstated financial reports and some ugly allegations that were never proven. We’ll see if this works out, but right now, it looks like Wall Street is pretty enthusiastic about that.
Ryssdal: And does give Larry Ellison a chance to poke a stick in the eye at HP, and it gives Mark Hurd a chance to do the exact same thing to his own company.
Henn: Yeah, that’s right. I’m sure Hurd is more than motivated to take it to his former employers,
Ryssdal: Steve Henn at the Marketplace technology outpost out in Silicon Valley. Steve, thanks a lot.
Henn: Sure thing.
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