When Steve Jobs tried to save Mark Hurd’s job as HP CEO

Thu, Jan 10, 2013

Apple History, News

A recent story from Bloomberg shines some light on Steve Jobs’ efforts to save the job of Mark Hurd, the former Hewlett Packard CEO who resigned following reports of inappropriate conduct with respect to a sexual harassment claim. A company probe uncovered no sexual harassment claim but found that Hurd’s actions were not in line with teh company’s standard of business. Hurd subsequently resigned on August 6, 2010.

In the wake of Hurd’s dismissal, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison sent an email to the New York Times which read in part:

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. HP had a long list of failed CEOs until they hired Mark who has spent the last five years doing a brilliant job reviving HP to its former greatness.

And now we’re finding out that Ellison’s long time buddy Steve Jobs also was shaken by Hurd’s resignation and did all he could to save his job.

Hurd met Jobs at his home in Palo Alto, according to people who know both men but did not wish to be identified, compromising a personal confidence. The pair spent more than two hours together, Jobs taking Hurd on his customary walk around the tree-lined neighborhood. At numerous points during their conversation, Jobs pleaded with Hurd to do whatever it took to set things right with the board so that Hurd could return. Jobs even offered to write a letter to HP’s directors and to call them up one by one.

Apple board member Bill Campbell explained that Jobs’ passion to save Hurd’s job wasn’t solely to provide help to a friend, but also to help preserve the legacy of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. Indeed, HP had long held a special place in Jobs’ heart, with Campbell noting that Jobs felt that a healthy HP “was essential to a healthy Silicon Valley.”

Jobs had long considered HP’s founders – Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard – to be personal heroes. In fact, when speaking before the Cupertino Town Council about Apple’s plans to build a new campus, Jobs referenced his roots in the Palo Alto area while discussing Hewlett and Packard.

When I was 13, I think, I called up—Hewlett and Packard were my idols—and I called up Bill Hewlett because he lived in Palo Alto, and there were no unlisted phone numbers in the phone book, which gives you a clue to my age.

“And he picked up the phone, and I talked to him and I asked him if he’d give me some spare parts for something I was building called a frequency counter, and he did. But in addition to that, he gave me something way more important, he gave me a job that summer … at Hewlett-Packard right here in Santa Clara off (Interstate)280, (the) division that built frequency counters, and I was heaven.

You might also remember an interesting tidbit about Jobs and HP from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs. Isaacson recounts attending one of Jobs’ last meetings with Apple staffers in the Summer of 2011. There, the topic of HP’s failed HP Touchpad tablet was discussed amidst celebration from Apple employees.

Jobs, however, was not overjoyed.

“Hewlett and Packard built a great company, and they thought they left it in good hands,” Jobs told his colleagues. “But now it’s being dismembered and destroyed. It’s tragic. I hope I’ve left a stronger legacy so that will never happen at Apple.”

Ultimately, Jobs was unable to do anything about Hurd’s departure.

When Hurd resigned, HP shares were trading in the low $40 range. Today, HP shares are trading at around $16.

via Bloomberg


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