Oracle in talks to hire Mark Hurd as a top executive

Getting  fired, or forced to resign, from the top job at Hewlett-Packard may not have hurt Mark Hurd’s career after all.

Oracle is in talks to hire Hurd as a top executive, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, VentureBeat’s Owen Thomas predicted last month that it would make sense for Oracle to snap up Hurd.

The exact nature of the title Hurd might take is unknown. The talks aren’t complete and the deal could still fall through. Oracle’s board still has to approve any appointment. But the trial balloon (a leak of information that could be viewed as a test of public sentiment on a matter) has clearly been floated. If there isn’t an outcry, Hurd might have himself a new job.

There may very well be no outcry. Hurd was forced to resign from HP after he admitted to a lapse in judgment about his relationship with a former HP marketing contractor. The contractor sued Hurd for sexual harassment, and the suit was settled out of court. But the investigation into the matter turned up lapses that led to Hurd’s resignation.

Oracle might inherit some baggage if it hires Hurd. It can’t profess to espouse the very highest of business ethics if it makes the hire, since Hurd admitted he hadn’t lived up to HP’s code of business standards. On the other hand, Hurd delivered stellar financial results for HP during a period of tumultuous change in the tech industry.

The deal isn’t necessarily a surprise because Larry Ellison, chief executive and founder of Oracle, was the primary defender of Hurd’s reputation in the wake of the scandal. HP will have plenty to worry about if Oracle hires Hurd. The two tech behemoths are fierce competitors, especially now that Oracle owns the former Sun Microsystems hardware business. Oracle earned $6.1 billion in its most recent fiscal year, while HP earned $7.7 billion. Yet Oracle is a much smaller company, with around 100,000 employees compared to HP’s 300,000.

Hurd’s intimate knowledge of HP’s future strategy could be very useful if he joins a business that will compete head-to-head with HP. The Journal reported that Ellision, 66, isn’t planning on giving up the top post at Oracle. He also has two co-presidents, Safra Catz and Charles Phillips. Ellison has given them considerable responsibility recently.

Last week, rumors surfaced that Phillips might be departing Oracle after the company assigned responsibility for Oracle’s global business units — something that Phillips previously supervised — to executive Bob Weiler.

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