Corporate friendship, the Hurd way

October 8, 2010

Larry Ellison“The HP Board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple Board fired Steve Jobs many years ago,” Oracle boss Larry Ellison thundered in a letter sent to the New York Times.

Ellison was of course referring to HP’s decision to fire its CEO Mark Hurd over what he called “cowardly corporate political correctness.”

This raises the question; does corporate rivalry really leave any space for friendship among company executives? You bet it does.

And there could not be better examples than the tech titans Ellison and Hurd.

Despite being its fiercest rival, Oracle boss Ellison not only lambasted HP for firing tennis buddy and long-time friend Hurd, but also hired him later as a co-president.

The resources sector does not lag behind either.

On a conference call to discuss its assets buys in the Eagle Ford shale, Plains Exploration boss Jim Flores explained how oil and gas company EOG Resources, rather its executives, are his “close friends, old friends”, who he continues to talk with.

It was evident that Flores did not mind taking some advice from the bosses at the bigger rival.

However, there are also some CEOs who do not see eye to eye.

At a conference in August, James River Coal boss Peter Socha gave an interesting reason for why executives could fall out.

“There is a really big CEO that I know in the industry who lost a girlfriend to somebody else years and years ago when they were in high school and to this day, he still hates that CEO.”

That to him was one reason for the slower consolidation in the U.S. coal industry.

Photo: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison speaks via video linkup with Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd as the extreme performance HP Oracle database machine is shown during Ellison’s keynote address at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, California September 24, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

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