HP / Oracle spat turns ugly

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd has been accused of "repeatedly lying" to the IT giant’s board of directors during its investigation into allegations of misconduct, the company’s incoming chairman has sensationally claimed.

In a letter to the New York Times, Ray Lane said Hurd "lacked the trust and integrity needed to lead a public company". Since being forced out of HP two months ago, Hurd has been appointed co-president at Oracle where Lane himself used to be an executive.

“Mr Hurd violated the trust of the board by repeatedly lying to them in the course of an investigation into his conduct,” Lane wrote. "He violated numerous elements of HP’s Standards of Business Conduct and he demonstrated a serious lack of integrity and judgment. The board was unanimous in its decision that he must go, including the seven directors Mr Hurd recruited to the board."

The letter has been construed as a response to an unflattering editorial the newspaper published on new HP CEO Leo Apotheker this weekend. The column suggested former SAP boss Apotheker was directly implicated in an ongoing intellectual property dispute with Oracle.

Software provider Oracle and systems vendor HP have previously worked as partners. Oracle’s move into the hardware business via its acquisition of Sun Microsystems last year has put the relationship under evident strain, however.

The defection of Mark Hurd and the entrance of a former SAP CEO into the equation has ratcheted up this rivalry. Following Apotheker’s appointment as HP CEO, Oracle chief Larry Ellison publically stated: "HP had several good internal candidates… but instead they pick a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP."

Mark Hurd left his post as HP CEO in early August following an internal probe into allegations of sexual harassment made by a marketing contractor. These allegations proved unfounded, but the board did find Hurd made "questionable" expenses claims.

It did not take him long to find a new role – personal friend Ellison offering him the job of Oracle co-president after only a few weeks.

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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