HP settles with former CEO Hurd

Less than two weeks after suing Mark Hurd for taking a post at competitor Oracle, the two companies settle out of court after he agreed to return stock to HP.

Erica Ogg Former Staff writer, CNET News
Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.
Erica Ogg
3 min read
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd, who is now one of Oracle's presidents. Hewlett-Packard

Less than two weeks after suing former CEO Mark Hurd for taking a job with Oracle, Hewlett-Packard says the two sides have put their differences behind them and settled outside of court.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, according to an HP spokesperson. HP said today that Hurd, now co-president of Oracle, has agreed to "adhere to his obligations to protect HP's confidential information while fulfilling his responsibilities at Oracle." But an SEC filing today gives away the real resolution: Hurd agreed to return some of the stock he was granted while still employed by HP.

The SEC filing notes that Hurd waived his rights to 346,030 restricted stock units, some of them performance-related, others time-based, granted to him in January 2008 and December 2009. The deal was put into motion when Oracle CEO Larry Ellison approached one of HP's board members, Marc Andreessen, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Legal experts noted at the time that the tone of HP's suit suggested what the company really was after in suing Hurd was the handsome compensation package he received when he left, rather than actually trying to keep him from going to work.

Hurd walked away from HP with a package reportedly worth up to $40 million. He joined Oracle as co-president in early September and was sued by HPthe following day for breach of contract and "threatened misappropriation of trade secrets." In other words, HP contended that by the nature of Hurd's work at Oracle, he would invariably leak the company's trade secrets, which he had promised to protect in a confidentiality agreement with his former employer.

Hurd went ahead and took the job anyway, appearing last week on Oracle's first quarter 2011 earnings call, and on stage this morning at the company's OpenWorld tech conference in San Francisco.

News that the two sides had settled hit the day after HP and Oracle managed to congenially share the stage OpenWorld. At the opening keynote last night, both co-president Safra Catz and HP Executive Vice President Ann Livermore reaffirmed the relationship between the two companies.

The language of the news announcement today was strikingly similar to Livermore's opening remarks yesterday: "HP and Oracle have been important partners for more than 20 years and are committed to working together to provide exceptional products and service to our customers," said Cathie Lesjak, HP's CFO and interim CEO. "We look forward to collaborating with Oracle in the future."

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was also quoted in the release saying that "Oracle and HP will continue to build and expand a partnership that has already lasted for over 25 years."

Ellison's tone today is a far cry from his outspoken reaction to Hurd's forced resignation from HP last month and the subsequent lawsuit by HP on September 6.

Ellison compared HP's board to "the idiots"that sent Apple CEO Steve Jobs packing from the company he founded almost two decades ago after Hurd was asked to step down following a sexual harassment claim by a former HP contractor and an investigation into his inaccurate expense reports.

This story was updated with information from the SEC filing at 2:40 p.m. PDT, and again at 5:55 p.m. PDT.