In stunning move, HP dumps CEO Hurd

Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd smiles at a news conference announcing his appointment at HP headquarters in Palo Alto, California in this March 30, 2005 file photo. Hewlett-Packard Co Chief Executive Hurd resigned on August 6, 2010 following an investigation of sexual harassment, the world's top computer maker said. REUTERS/Lou Dematteis/Files  (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS HEADSHOT)

This was a real shocker. Mark Hurd is known for the operational discipline he brought to HP, but now he’s been ousted for fudging his expense reports to cover up a personal relationship.

Mark V. Hurd, who turned Hewlett-Packard into the world’s largest technology company on the back of fierce fiscal discipline, has been ousted from his post for the lowliest of corporate offenses — fudging his expenses.

H.P.’s board stunned Silicon Valley and Wall Street late Friday by announcing Mr. Hurd’s resignation as chairman and chief executive of the computing and printing giant, involving what it said was a “close personal relationship” with a contractor who helped with the company’s marketing.

The woman’s lawyer contacted the company in late June, charging sexual harassment. While the directors were investigating that charge, they found inaccurate expense reports that covered payments made to the woman. The directors said, however, that the sexual harassment charge was unsubstantiated.

The board charged that Mr. Hurd, 53, failed to disclose his use of company funds. It urged Mr. Hurd to resign, but he balked and offered to compensate the company for the disputed funds, said to range from $1,000 to $20,000, according to a person close to Mr. Hurd who was briefed on the situation but was not authorized to speak publicly.

The board, however, insisted. “This was a necessary decision,” said Marc L. Andreessen, a venture capitalist and a director.

This seems like an extreme reaction, to say the least. It’s interesting that Hurd fought to keep his job – at least the story makes more sense now. It’s hard to imagine someone like him voluntarily quitting his CEO post over such an offense.

That said, the guy was pretty stupid.

Hurd helped to save HP after the mess left by Carly Fiorina, so it has to hurt letting such an operational genius go. But, it may have come at a good time for HP, as the company has squeezed out quite a bit of efficiency, and in the long run innovation and strategy matter as well.


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