Why can’t HP’s board get over Hurd?

By Felix Salmon
November 6, 2010

Are HP’s directors physically incapable of letting l’affaire Mark Hurd drop? Not only are their fingerprints all over the huge WSJ article on the subject today and Adam Lashinsky’s less exhaustive article in Fortune, but they’ve also decided to give the original letter accusing Hurd of impropriety to a San Diego law firm representing HP shareholders, making it certain that the letter will eventually become public. And it stands to reason that someone on the HP board was responsible for the bizarre NY Post story a couple of weeks ago claiming that Hurd had an affair with a Sun executive.

There are clearly multiple board sources, too: Fortune refers to the woman who hired Jodie Fisher as Caprice Fimbres, describing her as Hurd’s “program manager”, while the WSJ calls her Caprice McIlvaine, and calls her Hurd’s “unofficial chief of staff”. (On her LinkedIn page, she says that she was Hurd’s chief of staff.) It seems that she was ultimately responsible not only for filing Hurd’s fatally inaccurate expense accounts, but also for deciding that the best place to find a gatekeeper for Hurd was from the group of “cougars” on a reality TV show called “Age of Love”. She also flew Fisher to the Grove Hotel in Boise, where Fisher dined with Hurd and watched the Minnesota Vikings play the Green Bay Packers in his hotel room, but didn’t do any work for HP.

All of these revelations — including the unproved accusation that Hurd told Fisher about his bid for EDS — might well harm Hurd, but they also make the HP board seem leaky and defensive, rather than being concentrated on its main job, which is representing shareholders and overseeing the strategic direction of the company. What’s clear is that the arrival of Ray Lane as chairman hasn’t stopped the leaks or made the board seem any more grownup than it was before; quite the opposite, in fact. If I were an HP shareholder, I’d be worried about that: the company clearly needs leadership and strategic direction, but instead the board seems to be more interested in slinging mud at its former chairman. Depressing.

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