Mark Hurd, Jodie Fisher & Larry Ellison

December 31, 2011

If you don’t live in Silicon Valley or you don’t follow business news, you probably don’t know much about this story. It’s about Mark Hurd, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, who was forced out of his job because of his inappropriate behavior toward a female contractor, Jodie Fisher. It’s a bit salacious, a lot outrageous and it bears some discussion. I’m interested in your thoughts.

Here are the highlights of the story:

1. Hurd saw her on a third-rate TV show, Age of Love and decided she’d be a perfect host for series of executive summit meetings HP was holding. Enlisting the help of a vice president in HP’s communications department, he “interviewed” her and then engaged her under a marketing contract.

Let’s start here, just so you have context. Never, in my 30 years in corporate America, including stints at big high techs in Silicon Valley, had a CEO been that involved in hiring a marketing contractor. Or involved at all. CEOs are busy running their companies.

While large companies often enlist well-known actors or TV personalities to host meetings, it is unusual to hire a third-rate actress also known for soft-porn movies.

2. HP flew her all over the country to these meetings, each time inviting her to dinner with Hurd, often up to his room, where he made passes at her, an outcome that anyone over the age of 16 would have seen coming. It is unclear if she actually hosted any meetings. It is clear that Hurd initiated personal meetings with her while out of town.

She wanted to keep HP’s contract money coming in, so she attended the dinners and even went to his room more than once, where she fended off his advances. According to the secret letter attorney Gloria Allred sent, now public (see link in NYTimes article), his actions disturbed Ms. Fisher so much that she talked to her AA sponsor.

Her sponsor agreed that she “had” to attend these dinners but did not have to compromise her integrity. (There is so much wrong with this statement, I don’t know where to begin.)

Ms. Fisher’s publicist then approached HP, not to complain, but to ask for more money, because her scope of work had expanded to attending dinners with Hurd and going to his room. Therefore, she should be compensated for that time. (I’m reminded of that old punch line, “We know what you are, now we’re just negotiating price.)

3. Eventually, when Fisher wouldn’t play along, HP gave her no further assignments. Did she try to find another corporate hosting job? No. She engaged Gloria Allred, who wrote Hurd a very long, detailed letter clearly aimed toward a cash settlement.

The HP board got involved and it was decided that Hurd should leave. (Probably the best decision HP’s board has made in recent years.)

4. Hurd was immediately hired by his good friend and noted cocksman, Larry Ellison, head of Oracle, who saw nothing wrong with Hurd’s actions.

Ok, where to begin.

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