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September 10, 2010

And the little dog laughed: executive comedy, Oracle-style

My goodness, what larks in the Oracle boardroom. After his pal Mark Hurd wad fired from the CEO seat at HP Lazza E nobly stepped in to keep him off the dole by finding him a place as his right had man

By Cbr Rolling Blog

My goodness, what larks in the Oracle boardroom. After his pal Mark Hurd wad fired from the CEO seat at HP – a move the database firm’s supremo Larry Ellison publicly likened at the time to corporate ‘cowardice‘, Lazza E nobly stepped in to keep him off the dole by finding him a place as his right had man.

Or rather – would like to; the proposed appointment has created almost as much ruckus as the original venal sins that led to Hurd’s being asked to walk the plank at HP. For a start, HP says it will sue. And for another, it seems that the price for putting his mate in at the top of the Redwood Shores giant is the sacrifice of another key Oracle player – who also, it turns out, was being less than strict in the observance of his marriage vows. What’s in that Northern California coffee anyway?

Specifically – and remember, this is just weeks ahead of the most important global Oracle customer get together, Oracle Open World – former president Charles Phillips has been given his marching orders in favour of Hurd.

Chuck’s card looked pretty well marked when it emerged – via no less than his mistress booking billboards in New York with giant images of him and her alongside romantic declarations – that he’d been having an affair for 8.5 years. Though Ellison, a well known bon viveur, at the time stood by his man and said nothing, such kind of silliness doesn’t exactly help the old brand.

Whether or not replacing Phillips with Hurd on that basis is possibly open to question. HP reckons Hurd will reveal trade secrets and confidential company information. This is sensible as the bloke’s seat is still warm and presumably Oracle will have him trying to work out what the heck to do with its just-completed Sun Microsystems purchase.

So cue the lawyers – again, this makes sense as presumably Hurd completed the standard non-compete and let’s be honest, a fortnight or so hardly counts as decent gardening leave between such leadership roles in listed companies.

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What’s going on here? Ellison sees an opportunity to put a lid on the Chuck years and get his golfing buddy on board. That’s if nothing else commendable loyalty. But since Hurd’s ousting, the blogosphere has been full of fear and loathing from alleged HP insiders talking about what a difficult guy he was to work for at the firm. Does Oracle need another bruiser at the top at this stage in its development?

Ego may also be an element. Phillips, philandering aside, was clearly a very able lieutenant. Hurd’s just been running a company bigger than his new one. Is that going to work, long term?

Fascinating questions for us long-term Oracle watchers but also surely of note to anyone interested in how business really works. We’re all human – as Nietzsche said, all too human – and it seems some IT execs are even more human than they usually let on in public.

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