by Thomas Wailgum

Oracle’s New Co-President: The Hire Hurd ‘Round the World

Sep 07, 2010
Enterprise Applications

Apparently one high-tech vendor's junk is another vendor's treasure, as ex-HP leader Mark Hurd is scooped up by Oracle.

On Monday’s Labor Day holiday, Oracle confirmed what had been the subject of much speculation during the U.S. holiday weekend: Oracle announced that Mark Hurd, the sort-of-disgraced-though-it’s-still-kind-of-complicated ex-CEO of HP, would be taking his talents to Redwood Shores.

One could imagine CEO Larry Ellison’s self-satisfied smirk in announcing Hurd’s co-president appointment: “Mark did a brilliant job at HP, and I expect he’ll do even better at Oracle,” Ellison gushed. “There is no executive in the IT world with more relevant experience than Mark.”

To put it crudely, it appears that one man’s junk is another’s treasure, right?

The announcement, of course, left Oracle with three co-presidents: Hurd, Safra Catz and Charles Phillips. Oh yeah, there was that other Oracle press release that preceded Hurd’s: Charles Phillips Resigns as President of Oracle.

Phillips departure was not a shock: His fate was sealed back when a woman plastered pictures of herself with Phillips on a billboard in Times Square. (Just Google “Charles Phillips billboard,” if you’re unclear about what happened.) Unfortunately for Phillips, that woman was not his wife. (Guess it’s a good thing for Hurd that Leslie Fisher, the actress turned HP “greeter” who sued him for sexual harassment, did not go with the billboard approach.)

Hurd will have to adjust his commute from HP’s headquarters in Cupertino to Oracle’s Redwood Shores digs. But what else is going to change? Here’s a look at all the relevant players and some complete speculation about what they’re thinking right now:

Larry Ellison: Long-time Hurd pal Ellison went out on such a limb to defend his old tennis-playing buddy (i.e.: New York Times diatribe) that it might have been insulting to the friendship if Ellison hadn’t offered him the co-president job. Now Ellison gets a strong no. 2—who’s got a ton of demonstrable server and storage experience—and an heir apparent that should assuage investors.

Mark Hurd: It seems a bit strange that Hurd isn’t going to a new gig where he’s the top dog. Perhaps he’s OK with that. But going from HP’s No. 1 to Larry’s No. 2? Well, that seems like it might be a tougher task, since Larry’s decision is final on everything. (Their friendship and Hurd’s patience will be put to the test.) However, Hurd should have no problem adapting to Oracle’s M&A machine.

Safra Catz: The other co-president is known for being a fiscal disciplinarian and for having Larry’s ear; she’s not known for her “warm and fuzzy” customer relations practices. In the past, Catz has said that she doesn’t want Larry’s spot (“I don’t want the job,” to Forbes in 2006). However, she might have been smart about not stating any grandiose, public intentions about Ellison’s successor—unlike some of her predecessors who soon found themselves out of Larry’s good graces.

Charles Phillips: His future looked so bright just last year. And then the billboard incident. What’s next? He’ll probably take some time out of the spotlight and resurface at another company. He’s too good not to. Hey if Mark Hurd can have an Act II…

Oracle CFO Jeff Epstein: Watching Hurd’s expense reports with a very close eye? How awkward would even a totally innocent mistake by Hurd be? “Uh, hey, Mark, umm, it’s…ah, me, Jeff. Hey, uhhhh. Can I ask you about that, uh, expense report you…uhhh…submitted in, um, November?”

Oracle Shareholders: “Yes, we’ve got someone who can sell Exadata! Yes, there appears to be a succession plan in place!”

IBM: The burgeoning servers and storage battle with Oracle just got re-set to DEFCON 1.

HP: Gulp. It’s safe to say that Hurd had intimate knowledge of HP’s future strategies. And that whole HP-Oracle “partner” status is now in serious jeopardy. Maybe they didn’t appreciate Carly when they had her? Nahhhhh.

Oracle HR: “To clarify, we will not be hiring actresses turned marketing folks who make a living at ‘meet and greets’ with Oracle execs.”

HP and Oracle Lawyers: HP Files Civil Complaint Against Hurd. “Show us the money!”

Thomas Wailgum covers Enterprise Software, Data Management and Personal Productivity Apps for Follow Thomas on Twitter @twailgum. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Thomas at