How on Earth did a second rate actress push Mark Hurd to resign as HP CEO?

Mark Hurd’s resignation from allegations of sexual harassment of a contract worker still shocks me. I have had two opportunities to meet Hurd in person and interview him. Both times he looked to me to be a person who is smart, serious and determined. Not someone caught in a TMZ scandal story.

My first ever live press conference with Hurd was also quite remarkable. Usually executives play nice with us, but not Hurd he dictated to the media what was important. He was borderline intimidating reporters. The sense I got was that he was in charge and he wanted everyone to know it.

Another story about his reach and power came from HP Canada. During a routine budget proposal session, Canadian executives submitted a budget that in the past would never have been seen by the CEO. The executives got a quick response directly from Hurd to make more alterations.

While Hurd ran HP, the company grew revenue from just over $91 billion to more than $114 billion; doubling its earnings per share. Under his watch, HP made high profile acquisitions of Opsware, Mercury, EDS, 3Com and Palm. That is a very impressive record for any CEO.

So how does an actress named Jodie Fisher, whose biggest claim to fame was being the first contestant voted off the NBC reality TV show Age of Love, bring the downfall of such an imposing, successful chief executive?

It is really mind-boggling. Let’s look at what we know: There was a sexual harassment investigation at HP. This investigation cleared Hurd of any wrong doing. Fisher’s lawyer, the well-known Gloria Allred, issued a statement saying there was no affair and no intimate sexual relationship between Fisher and Hurd.

HP’s investigation found, however, that Hurd violated HP's standards of business conduct when it concerned Fisher. That’s it. What could he have done?

Again how does this happen to the powerful Hurd? If you read between the lines it could mean that in whatever role Hurd used Fisher, HP deemed it inappropriate to the point where he had to go.

And, if Hurd goes now it saves the company from further embarrassment if more negative details come out. Then they will be Hurd’s problem; not HP’s.

How will this impact HP in the market place? I will tell you right now it will not have much impact. This is not a Bernie Madoff or Tony Hayward situation; it is more of a Martha Stewart one.

The market place may not have liked what Stewart did, but it did not mean people were going to cancel there subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine, or stop watching her show or turn away from Martha Stewart branded products at Home Depot or Zellers?

The market will continue to buy from HP because their products are excellent and provide value to the customer. HP is not answering questions about this story from the media; but if they were company executives would say “it’s business as usual.” And, they would be right.

HP will select a new CEO before the year ends and for Hurd he will have to make due on severance of more than $12 million in pay and $16 million in stock. I doubt he would run another major technology company again.
One quick hit before I go. Apple's AntennaGate has its first casualty and its Mark Papermaster, the company's chief of iPhone and IPod division. I'm not trying to be funny here but I can't believe the head of a mobile device like the iPhone is named Papermaster. The reason for his departure is “cultural incompatibility”. That is a new one for me, but it's quite creative and a lot better that “leaving to pursue other interests.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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