New HP chairman claims Hurd ‘lied’ to board

Incoming Hewlett-Packard chairman Ray Lane has issued a number of astonishing public accusations that Mark Hurd “repeatedly lied” to the company’s board during the investigation that led to his ousting, an upgrade in rhetoric that shows HP’s increasing hostility towards long-time partner Oracle.

Mr Lane, a prominent venture capitalist who served as president of Oracle a decade ago, made the fresh accusation more than two months after HP forced out the well-regarded Mr Hurd, who more recently signed on as a co-president at Oracle.

His outbursts came on Monday in a letter to the New York Times, which had run a column over the weekend suggesting that Mr Hurd’s missteps were minor compared with those of Léo Apotheker, the incoming HP chief executive.

“Mr Hurd violated the trust of the board by repeatedly lying to them in the course of an investigation into his conduct,” Mr Lane wrote.

An HP spokeswoman would not elaborate.

A spokesman for Mr Hurd said he would not respond.

Others involved in the long-running controversy said Mr Lane had felt compelled to defend the HP board, which he formally joins on November 1.

But the clash of personalities also overlays strategic shifts that are pitting HP more directly against Oracle. HP continues to sell big computers that run Oracle’s database software, but wants to sell more of its own software. Oracle moved into computer sales this year when it completed the acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

HP’s board has continued to come under fire for dismissing Mr Hurd, who made the company the largest in the technology industry.

In the days after Mr Hurd’s August departure, the company said it had found improper expense reports that effectively concealed a personal relationship with an actress-turned-marketing contractor who hosted parties for HP customers.

But that explanation has puzzled investors and industry executives because HP did not uncover a physical relationship between the two and did not substantiate her claim that her contract was not renewed because she would not have sex with Mr Hurd.

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch said in a television interview last week that HP’s board was “somewhat dysfunctional” and must have had some other reason for firing Mr Hurd.

Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison has faulted the HP board before and after hiring Mr Hurd, telling the Financial Times this month that HP’s hiring of Mr Apotheker was further evidence that the company had gone astray.

Mr Ellison was referring to conduct at a subsidiary of SAP, Mr Apotheker’s previous company, which has admitted in a pending suit that it improperly accessed Oracle software. That case was the main focus of the New York Times column, but Mr Lane wrote that Oracle had “never offered any evidence that Mr. Apotheker was involved”.

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