When it comes to ousted HP CEO Mark Hurd joining Oracle and HP’s subsequent lawsuit, Om speculates that this is a Machiavellian plot cooked up by Hurd and Larry Ellison to distract HP from business as usual, and settles in to watch the show.


As someone who enjoys the spectacle of a good corporate fight and shameless mud-slinging, it’s fun to see the aging pachyderms of Silicon Valley duke it out in the courts, and by extension in the press. Given Larry Ellison’s very public and vocal support of ex-HP CEO Mark Hurd, it wasn’t much of a surprise that Oracle hired him as co-president. Less than a day later, HP — its nose tweaked — decided to sue Hurd and Oracle. They gave a litany of reasons, many of which were covered by Mathew yesterday. It’s expected that a fight this juicy is getting a lot of press.

The big question on my mind is: What’s the real story? I mean, Hurd, Oracle and Ellison had to know that HP would respond with a legal action of some sort. This lawsuit is really par for the course; if HP didn’t sue, that would have been a surprise. So clearly, Hurd and Ellison have mapped out the entire scenario very carefully, and they must have engaged legal help here. Those two are way too smart to not have planned for this and built strong defenses. I’m pretty sure Hurd has an ace up his sleeve, or he wouldn’t be risking his awfully generous settlement package.

As a result, I have come up with a Machiavellian theory about what that game is (and remember it’s just a theory) that goes something like this:

  • Oracle appoints Hurd; HP gets angry and sues Oracle, Hurd.
  • The lawsuit forces HP and its senior management’s entire attention on stopping this clear and present danger to their business.
  • Oracle continues to work, as Larry is still the king of that castle. Hurd leads the fight against HP. His intimate knowledge of HP allows him to direct pin-pointed legal attacks at his former employer.
  • Hurd wants HP to air his so-called dirty laundry, only to prove that HP essentially pushed him out. (Okay this one is maybe a stretch.)
  • The legal hostilities drag HP’s attention away from hiring a CEO.
  • All this mud-slinging spooks some of the outside candidates for the top job at HP. I mean, if you’re considering a gig at that company and you see it going after Hurd with hammer and tongs… you’re going to think twice.
  • HP ends up picking an internal candidate, which essentially causes fissures in the senior ranks and turns the company into a series of fiefdoms.
  • Chaos at HP essentially helps Oracle.

If you watched the breathless bidding for storage provider 3PAR  with HP paying almost twice as much as what Dell initially offered, you know the company is losing fiscal discipline. Sure, the 3PAR deal came on HP’s radar during Hurd’s tenure, but the price it paid shows that the company needs to get a grip. I not sure Larry’s taunting is going to help. In a statement released late afternoon on Tuesday, Ellison did his best to poke HP in the eye:

“Oracle has long viewed HP as an important partner,” said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. “By filing this vindictive lawsuit against Oracle and Mark Hurd, the HP board is acting with utter disregard for that partnership, our joint customers, and their own shareholders and employees.  The HP Board is making it virtually impossible for Oracle and HP to continue to cooperate and work together in the IT marketplace.”

I bet there’s more to come. Like you, I am ready for the show!

Photo of fighting elephants via YouTube video by YT user, gecco01.

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  1. Larry needs a new enemy to rally the troops, the old one (MS) is getting to old and bruised already to take on one more time.

  2. i don’t care about the show … it is of some interest to watch the destructive nature of ego at work … hopefully, instructive

  3. does not larry know never take paterners fired CEO’s. Its like he married one of his close friends wife. Larry is clearly stupid. he should have kept his friendship with TURD as away from business.

    He needs business 101 lession.

    1. where are you from, ETHIOPIA :-)
      gO and take a nap, you are out of your mind,Hurd is a hero

  4. You have to be impressed with Larry Ellison. Like him or not, the man is one of the most effective business instigators in the world.

  5. Larry Ellison is the best CEO troll out there. hahaha.

  6. Does HP really know what they are up against in taking on Ellison, the Earl of Arrogance? He has much deeper coffers to weather a long and protracted court fight, he has a proven track record at getting what he wants, no matter what the fight entails (PeopleSoft, SJO landings with his MIG, Woodside house design/construction, America’s Cup, four wives and counting….), and he has a rather unique and combative style that you just can’t count out. This guy not only loves but seems to live for warfare of any kind. And he just doesn’t lose…ever. Good luck HP Board, you’re gonna need it.

    1. He just lost the Warrioirs deal. It’s not that he is invincible. You are a bit too much of a fanboy

  7. Many folks in HP like Randy Mott, Todd(PSG Chief) must quote and join Oracle as well. They don’t deserve to be at HP.

    #1 TURD like laying off people. Cutting Salary and Benefits of employee while increasing his own bonus 400%.

    This is what our wallstreet like and they rate a CEO who does #1 as best CEO.

    #2. What wallstreet does now know is how an engineering company works. Engineering & Tech company works with quality workforce. During hurds tenure with HP, employee iteration was highest of all. ok why should you care of employee as an investor the bottom like is quality folks makes a better product.

    #3 What is Larry’s mind for TURD: Offcourse TURD is his best friend that happend Since TURD joined HP(Note this).

    #4 Who knew TURD Before HP,

    #5 Does anyone know anything about HP. Can someone ask TURD why during his tenure the (Printer) business took a dip. Note that printer business in HP was largest profit making business always. TURD just picked battel with high performing VP of printer business and screweed up the entire business. This proves that he failed to lead as Engineering company.

    #6 Larry must be aiming to make Mark Hurd as CEO in next few years and take an retirement but first Mark has to prove with his BBA background that he can lead an engineering company. Note that Larry still know how to install Oracle DB. Mark hurd even can’t spell what is RDBMS and so as wallstreet.

    It would have been wise for Larry to keep emotions into control and acted wisely. What it looks now he wants a plight with his most valued patner. Lets see who will win and who will loose.

    1. Dude – Can you pay attention to what you are writing? It’s bloody hard to understand what you are saying.

  8. As far as conspiracy theories go..this one is good, but not water-tight.

    Firstly, HP is not a direct competitor of Oracle. So, why pick on them? Also, HP lacks s*x appeal and so it’s unlikely that Larry picks on them. Yes, it was HP that slapped the court case and Oracle is merely responding. Is Oracle gunning for a new partner – a Dell or a Acer (or some other competitor of HP)? Even that doesn’t make a lot of sense given that Oracle is not in any great symbiotic (read Wintel like) relationship with any one, let alone HP.

    Also, seen from the HP side, HP would rather hire a new President to fight Mark/Larry (that is, assuming they still have some change left after the 3PAR party) and a new CEO to fight Acer, Dell, and the other real competitors. yeah, they would need 2 people to replace Mark, but that shouldn’t be impossible.

    My own anti-climactic theory is that Larry and Mark are friends and Larry is being nice. If Larry had a grouse with HP, he would rather have had Mark (or a confidante) in HP instead of out of HP. Looks like the HP board ran out of patience with Mark and found an excuse to show him the door. And that is not without consequences. And HP will find a way to deal with it. Or not. But there is not much more to it.

  9. “So clearly, Hurd and Ellison have mapped out the entire scenario very carefully, and they must have engaged legal help here.”

    Well, Mr. Hurd isn’t THAT smart considering how he ended up at Oracle in the first place.

  10. If Oracle stopped offering their database software on HP’s Itanium servers, it would kill them. The BCS division would die overnight.


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