Hurd’s HP exit agreed ‘before Fisher settlement’

Hewlett-Packard’s board had already decided CEO Mark Hurd should leave the company before he agreed to settle a sexual harassment suit out of court, it has been claimed.

It had been reported that HP’s board of directors decided to oust Hurd after he chose to settle with marketing contractor Jodie Fisher. The settlement reportedly stipulated that Fisher could not speak publicly on the matter thereby obstructing an independent investigation into his conduct.

However, sources close to HP now claim the IT vendor made its decision to remove Hurd on 28 July. Hurd did not agree to settle with former adult actress Fisher until 4 August, two days before he went public and resigned.

Further details have also materialised on the basis of Fisher’s claim, which was reportedly that Hurd denied her work at HP because she refused to have sex with him.

Hurd denies this, with the Wall Street Journal reporting he told acquaintances he never pressured Fisher into a sexual relationship, and she was offered less work as a result of the recession. "Did I do anything to try to sexually advance the relationship? No," he claimed.

He also reportedly told associates that settled with Fisher out of court as he feared the potential cost of defending a legal case would be much higher. "You get deposed and you’ve got to go do the whole process," he said. "Which is a mess."

Hurd left the company earlier this month after allegations of sexual harassment against Fisher came to light. HP’s board found no evidence of this in an internal probe, but did find Hurd had violated the company’s code of conduct with “questionable” expense filings, which included meals with Fisher.

Meanwhile, HP has stepped up the process of finding Hurd’s successor by appointing executive search company Spencer Stewart. The firm will examine both internal and external candidates, with reports suggesting that HP aims to have a permanent CEO in place before an analyst meeting at the end of September.

Some of those executives that have been identified as contenders for the role include HP’s current PC division chief Todd Bradley, head of IBM’s software business Steve Mills, Microsoft’s business unit head Stephen Elop and EMC president Pat Gelsinger.

Peter Done

Peter Done is managing director of Peninsula Business Services, the personnel and employment law consultancy he set up having already built a successful betting shop business.

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