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.

4 comments

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Not to mention poisoning the well for the new CEO. Sounds to me like the cabal that won the battle at HP is intent on burning down the ruins.

Posted by MattF | Report as abusive

I worked for HP back when they had Silicon Valley employees. You would not believe how the buildings have emptied out. All those free trade advocates should be required to take a tour. Hurd only cut R&D by 75%. That was, and is, a real problem for HP. Funny no one addresses it.

Meanwhile Wall Street slobbered all over HP, praised Hurd to the skies. That is another real problem. Funny that no one addresses it.

Posted by nyet | Report as abusive

This HP stuff is pure gold… Remember that it was Hurd who actually starred in an earlier scandal at HP in which he (through a deligate who later got axed) hired private-I’s specifically to gain the telcom records of all HP board members because their loose lips might have been sinking HP strategy ships. I belive the Pre-texting laws resulted from exactly that event. Amazingly ironic that the same HP board is now leaking materials about Hurd.

To nyet’s point… I work in Portland, ME but since I manage investments I guess I get painted with the “Walsteet slobbering” brush… Hurd obviously had some personal faults but may god strike me down if he wasen’t a fantastic manager during his tenure.

Lets review HP under Hurd… Sales up sharply… costs slashed… stock price DOUBLED during a period of truely poor performance for U.S. large cap equities.

Ellison and Oracle were wise indeed to look at this dirty drama and come to the quick decision of “got-to-get-me-some-of-that-Mark-Hurd-Ac tion!”

ORCL + 16.24% post Hurd hire for those keeping score at home…

For the sake of my ORCL shareholders I hope he makes more discreet arrangements this go-round.

Posted by y2kurtus | Report as abusive

“Lets review HP under Hurd… Sales up sharply… costs slashed… stock price DOUBLED during a period of truly poor performance for U.S. large cap equities.”

They say that a bubble is visible only in retrospect. One could say that about bad judgment as well.

The Wall Street view of Hurd is based on chronic “short termism”, but it is worse than that. It is a inability to make good judgments about research and development in a highly technical field that Wall Street analysts are simply not qualified to evaluate. HP has “slashed costs” to the point of scattering its seed corn to the winds.

I stand by my comment that Wall Street’s love of Hurd is basically slobber. It would be pathetic if it didn’t have the effect of undermining good judgment in the technology industry.

Posted by nyet | Report as abusive