HP Sues Former CEO for Joining Oracle

After giving the Playboy bunny-chasing Mark Hurd a roughly $50 million severance package, HP adds an extra parting gift: a lawsuit.


While a tenth of America’s work force struggled to find employment, Mark Hurd, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard who was caught fudging expense accounts and accused of harassing a 1980s Playboy bunny, found a job as director and co-president of Oracle. Now, after giving Hurd a severance package in the $50 million range, his former employer is slapping him with a lawsuit.

HP filed its complaint Wednesday in California Superior Court, accusing Hurd of breach of contract. The tech-giant argues that since Hurd was intimately involved in HP’s business plans, the very fact that he’s working with Oracle — a strong rival in the computer server and storage market — might harm HP. And that would be a violation of his employment contract, according to the claim:

“Despite being paid millions of dollars in cash, stock and stock options in exchange for Hurd’s agreements to protect HP’s trade secrets and confidential information during his employment and following his departure, Hurd has put HP’s most valuable trade secrets and confidential information in peril. Hurd accepted positions with Oracle Corp., a competitor of HP, yesterday as its President and as a member of its Board of Directors. In his new positions, Hurd will be in a situation in which he cannot perform his duties for Oracle without necessarily using and disclosing HP’s trade secrets and confidential information to others.”

Hurd has yet to respond to the allegations. But Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s recent criticism of HP can’t have helped matters.

“The HP board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago,” Ellison told The New York Times. “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.”

No word yet on what Ellison thinks of the “idiots” who filed this lawsuit.

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.