The HP Mark Hurd saga has provided a nice diversion to BP’s fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico. It has been interesting to follow the debate on whether HP’s Board of Directors did the right thing, the power of various advisors in the decision and whether the woman at the center of the controversy was merely an actress or an actress and Playboy model.
After all the stories and blogs on the incident and its aftermath along with the damage to HP’s share price and reputation, you’d think the company would do all it can to help the story fade away. Once it’s in the past, HP can get back to business, focus on its customers and enhance shareholder value.
When news broke earlier this week that Hurd is joining Oracle as co-president, many of us wondered how HP would react. After all, HP and Oracle are business partners in some areas and Hurd apparently was not subject to a non-compete clause. While California is reticent to impede employees from choosing a new employer, HP is pressing forward with a lawsuit challenging the hiring on trade secret and other concerns.
Legal pundits say the HP case has little chance of success in the courtroom. But in the court of public opinion (shareholders, customers, partners, employees and the Silicon Valley wags), HP is keeping the Hurd discussion alive. Whatever the motivation for the lawsuit (are there real business reasons or just revenge), HP may not have thought through the communications and reputational consequences of its actions.
As a start, Larry Ellison issued a statement that seemingly brings the future of the HP-Oracle partnership into play. More importantly, the lawsuit provides another opportunity for reporters, bloggers, financial analysts and others to rehash the details of the story up to now and speculate anew on HP’s future.
Stoking the controversy and prolonging the story may not be the best thing for HP in terms of reputation and relations with some key constituencies but it does allow the publication of more fetching photos of Jodie Fisher and adds to her 15 minutes of fame.