Oracle's Latest Acquisition Is Ex-HP CEO Mark Hurd

After leaving HP amid controversy, Mark Hurd quickly resurfaces at Oracle.
Posted September 7, 2010

David Needle

The enterprise sales cycle may be slow and deliberate, but when Oracle sees an opportunity, it doesn't delay. Late Monday, Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) announced it had hired former HP (NYSE: HPQ) CEO Mark Hurd as a new president.

Hurd will share the title of president with Safra Catz as part of Oracle's executive structure under CEO Larry Ellison, filling the post vacated at the same time by longtime exec Charles Phillips. Ellison said in a statement that Phillips had approached him months earlier about transitioning out of the company, and that he had asked Phillips to stay until Oracle completed its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, which wrapped up earlier this year.

HP also announced that Hurd will join Oracle's board of directors.

The announcement comes just a month after Hurd was shown the door at HP under a cloud of controversy stemming from an internal investigation into claims of sexual harassment filed against Hurt by a former HP contractor, Jody Fisher. While HP's board of directors cleared Hurd on the sexual harassment charge, it found he had falsified expense reports to cover up a personal relationship with her.

Days later, Oracle's Ellison, a personal friend of Hurd's, blasted HP board in its decision to part ways with its CEO. In a letter to the New York Times, he called the move "the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago."

While at HP, Hurd earned a reputation as a hard-charging chief executive, who after having replaced Carly Fiorina, led a string of high-profile acquisitions to drive into the booming IT services market while dramatically slashing costs to help right the ailing tech giant. He joined HP in 2005 after more than two decades at retail technology and ATM giant NCR.

Meanwhile, Oracle is going through a major transition of its own: wrestling with the challenge of becoming an integrated systems provider following its multibillion-dollar acquisition of Sun Microsystems earlier this year.

"Mark did a brilliant job at HP and I expect he'll do even better at Oracle," Ellison said in a statement. "There is no executive in the IT world with more relevant experience than Mark. Oracle's future is engineering complete and integrated hardware and software systems for the enterprise. Mark pioneered the integration of hardware with software when Teradata was a part of NCR."

Analyst Tim Bajarin said Hurd may even be a better fit at Oracle than he had been at HP.

"Hurd has always been much more enterprise- and workstation-focused, given his background," Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, told "He did well giving Todd Bradley [executive vice president in HP's Personal Systems Group] plenty of latitude in the PC group, but if you look at most of their acquisitions until Palm, they were enterprise-oriented."

Bajarin also said he thinks Hurd will help the traditionally acquisitive Oracle branch into new areas.

"Ellison has said the company is going to make more acquisitions and I wouldn't be surprised if the next one is a more services-oriented company," he said. One of HP's major acquisitions under Hurd was its blockbuster $13.9 billion merger with IT consulting giant EDS.

In a statement, Hurd sounded like someone ready to hit the ground running with a reference to new systems coming from Oracle.

"I believe Oracle's strategy of combining software with hardware will enable Oracle to beat IBM in both enterprise servers and storage," Hurd said. "Exadata is just the beginning. We have some exciting new systems we are going to announce later this month at Oracle OpenWorld. I'm excited to be a part of the most innovative technology team in the IT industry."

Although Hurd pointedly referenced IBM (NYSE: IBM), a favorite target of Ellison's as well, Oracle's recent Sun acquisition also makes it a clear competitor to HP as well.

"There's no question Oracle's No. 1 target is IBM," Bajarin said. "But HP and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) are lurking there, too. Hurd understands the needs of enterprise customers and he's going to be an asset for Oracle."

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: Oracle, HP, Larry Ellison, CEO, Hurd

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