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Steve Jobs tried to help Mark Hurd regain his job, says report

Apple's co-founder reportedly urged a reconciliation between the beleaguered former CEO and Hewlett-Packard's board.

Steve Jobs, unveiling the iPad in 2010. James Martin/CNET

A fascinating nugget turns up in BloombergBusinessweek's excellent piece on Hewlett-Packard: None other than Steve Jobs reached out to offer counseling to Mark Hurd after Hurd had walked away from his job as HP's CEO.

Three days after he'd resigned as CEO under pressure from the company's board of directors, Hurd received an e-mail from Steve Jobs. The Apple founder wanted to know if Hurd needed someone to talk to. Jobs had lived through a similar experience decades earlier when Apple's board turned on him, an analogy Hurd and Jobs's mutual friend and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was quick to draw, condemning Hurd's ouster as "the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago."

Hurd met Jobs at his home in Palo Alto, according to people who know both men but did not wish to be identified, compromising a personal confidence. The pair spent more than two hours together, Jobs taking Hurd on his customary walk around the tree-lined neighborhood. At numerous points during their conversation, Jobs pleaded with Hurd to do whatever it took to set things right with the board so that Hurd could return. Jobs even offered to write a letter to HP's directors and to call them up one by one.

Fellow Apple alum and industry insider Bill Campbell later relates that the phone call did not emerge from the blue. Not only did Jobs have an emotional commitment to HP (Jobs: "The first computer I ever saw was at Hewlett-Packard. ... I was maybe 12.") but he also didn't want to see one of Silicon Valley's most legendary companies fall apart. A magnanimous gesture, and while we'll resist playing the role of armchair psychologist, Jobs likely saw a close parallel with Apple's (relatively) recent history. Before he returned to the company, Apple's stumbles had left it on the precipice, and the conventional wisdom offered up at the time was that bankruptcy was close.

But as we now know the reconciliation never materialized, and Hewlett-Packard presently finds itself in a touchy situation, with some Wall Street analysts urging current CEO Meg Whitman to break up the company. As Businessweek notes, Jobs "passed away a little over a year later, but lived long enough to see his prediction borne out."