Last updated: September 5, 2010 10:05 pm

Oracle looks to give Hurd leading role

Oracle’s board will meet within days to vote on a deal to bring Mark Hurd to the company in a top role, marking a rapid corporate rehabilitation for the ousted Hewlett-Packard chief executive.

Mr Hurd is unlikely to win the title of chief executive, which has been held since 1977 by Larry Ellison, Oracle’s founder and chairman, who owns about a quarter of the database software giant. But almost any position would represent a coup for Mr Hurd after HP’s board forced him to quit the company he had led for five years.

Mr Hurd was ousted from HP over questions about his handling of expenses following an allegation of sexual harassment of a female consultant. HP said that it had found no violation of its own sexual harassment policy but determined that expense reports filed by or for Mr Hurd were inappropriate.

The impending hiring could rejuvenate Oracle’s efforts to compete head-on against HP, IBM and others in selling a variety of computing hardware. Early this year, Oracle completed its purchase of sophisticated computer maker Sun Microsystems for about $7bn after IBM and HP dropped out of the bidding process.

“I don’t think you’ll see a profound change in strategy with the addition of Hurd, but I do think you’ll see a better ability to execute in the hardware business”, said Brendan Barnicle, Pacific Crest Securities analyst.

That is more likely to involve further high-margin hardware acquisitions by Oracle than any move in computing services.

Mr Hurd would bring deep knowledge of the hardware industry, where HP gets the lion’s share of its revenue. From a base in computers and printers, HP has been expanding through acquisitions into technology services, networking and, most recently, smartphones.

Oracle has long been a force in the most sophisticated databases for storing and analysing corporate information. But the acquisition of Sun concerned some investors because Oracle lacks experience in selling computers and storage gear.

Terms of the expected employment offer had yet to be finalised by Sunday, said a person familiar with the fast-moving developments. It was unclear whether Mr Hurd would outrank Oracle’s two co-presidents, former Wall Street analyst Charles Phillips and Safra Catz, a former investment banker who also served as Oracle’s chief financial officer until 2008.

Mr Ellison is personally close to Mr Hurd and has supported him in public comments, calling his dismissal “the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago”.

On Sunday, Mr Ellison, Oracle and a representative for Mr Hurd all declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Richard Waters in San Francisco

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