There are two ways to look at the decision of former HP CEO Mark Hurd to retire, which was apparently imposed on him by the HP board.
On one hand, lesser HP employees would have been sacked for such behaviour, so why shouldn't he? On the other, the job of the board is to safeguard shareholder value, and how can dumping its most successful CEO for decades be consistent with that mandate? It's the old idealism versus pragmatism debate and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has come down firmly on the side of the latter.
In an email to the NYT Ellison - who is known to be a close friend of Hurd in spite of Oracle and HP increasingly coming into competition with each other - said: "The HP board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago. That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn't come back and saved them.
"In losing Mark Hurd, the HP board failed to act in the best interest of HP's employees, shareholders, customers and partners. The HP board admits that it fully investigated the sexual harassment claims against Mark and found them to be utterly false."
Ellison reckons the board was initially split on whether to go public with the sexual harassment claim. Another NYT report claims HP was convinced by an external PR company that public disclosure was the best way forward.
The piece has more from Ellison's email: "What the expense fraud claims do reveal is an HP board desperately grasping at straws in trying to publicly explain the unexplainable; how a false sexual harassment claim and some petty expense report errors led to the loss of one of Silicon Valley's best and most respected leaders," he wrote.
An NYT anonymous source reckons the decision to disclose the sexual harassment claim soured the relationship between Hurd and the board. To us this looks like the real reason behind his resignation and that HP bought Hurd's discretion with a big pay-off.