Oracle in Talks with Former HP CEO Hurd: Report

The Wall Street Journal reports former HP CEO Mark Hurd is in negotiations with enterprise software specialist Oracle to join the company as a high-ranking executive.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd, who resigned from his post with the technology giant in the face of sexual harassment issues, is in current negotiations with enterprise software specialist Oracle to join the company as a top-ranking executive, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The paper reported "people familiar with the matter" explained there was no specific timeline in the process and talks were still ongoing. Before being hired, Oracle's board would have to agree to the decision, the paper reported.

In early August, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison sharply criticized HP's board of directors for firing in Hurd, accusing the group of "cowardly corporate political correctness." In an e-mail sent to The New York Times on Aug. 9, Ellison called the HP board's move "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 the event that Hurd is hired, it would serve as a remarkable turnaround for the former HP CEO, who was ousted after allegations of sexual harassment. After an internal investigation, the HP board found no evidence to support the sexual harassment charge levied by Jodie Fisher, a 50-year-old one-time actress who attended HP functions with Hurd. However, Hurd apparently falsified expense reports to cover up his personal relationship with Fisher and to pay her for work that she never performed.

As of this year, Ellison, a co-founder of Oracle, has served as Oracle's CEO throughout its history. Specializing in database management systems the company also builds tools for database development and systems of middle-tier software, enterprise resource planning software (ERP), customer relationship management software (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM) software. By 2007, Oracle had the third-largest software revenue, after Microsoft and IBM.

Following Hurd's departure, the HP board appointed Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak, 51, as CEO on an interim basis. Lesjak, a 24-year veteran of the company, has served as HP's CFO and as a member of the company's Executive Council since January 2007.

Ezra Gottheil, senior analyst at Technology Business Research, said despite the controversy surrounding Hurd's departure, the company remains in an excellent market position. "Under Hurd's guidance, the company controlled costs through the recession, allowing it to maintain operating margins of at least 8 percent throughout three consecutive quarters (1Q09-3Q09) of revenues that decreased year-to-year," Gottheil wrote. "These results were particularly impressive considering HP was digesting the $13.9 billion acquisition of EDS, a merger that gives HP a strong services arm."

HP recently triumphed over rival IT giant Dell in a bidding war for 3PAR, a storage company that specializes in handling data in massive amounts for large-scale IT systems. HP ponied up $2.35 billion to acquire the company, which translates into a $33-per-share bid. Finalization of the transaction, however, will be dependent upon the shareholders of each company, who will vote on the deal within the next few weeks.