Former softcore porn actress Jodie Fisher came forward on Sunday to confirm that she was the mysterious marketing consultant whose relationship with Hewlett-Packard chief executive Mark Hurd led him to lose his job at the helm of the world’s largest technology company.
The 50-year-old former reality television contestant became a marketing consultant for HP, introducing him to customers and keeping him company. But she filed sexual harassment charges after HP ended the events that she staged for the company. Upon investigating, HP’s board found that Hurd had fudged his expense reports and failed to disclose a “close personal relationship” with Fisher. That led to considerable debate on the board about whether HP had to disclose the matter, and that eventually led to Hurd’s ouster.
The disclosure of the circumstances around Hurd’s departure and the identity of the marketing consultant add even more mystery to the matter. It showed how the lines blurred between a CEO’s personal interests and the company’s. At another company, Hurd’s actions may have been overlooked. But HP has had one board-related crisis after another and that has clearly led to zero tolerance for corporate shenanigans.
“I was surprised and saddened that Mark lost his job over this,” Fisher said. “That was never my intention.”
Fisher disclosed her identity in a statement from her lawyer, Gloria Allred, and said that she had never had a sexual relationship with Hurd. Hurd, who is married, settled the harassment suit with Fisher for an undisclosed sum. HP executives held a call with the press on Sunday and said they would no longer discuss Hurd’s situation. Cathie Lesjak, chief financial officer, is serving as interim chief executive. On Friday, HP’s stock price fell 8 percent in after-hours trading. Marc Andreessen, who sold his firm Opsware to HP for $1 billion, is a member of the search committee to find a new CEO. I wrote a piece arguing that HP should, for the sake of stability and respect for employees, finally hire an insider as its CEO.
Fisher helped coordinate CEO Summit events that Hurd attended at resorts in the U.S., Europe or Asia. Hurd gave talks at the events and appeared at parties. HP sources told the New York Times that Hurd approved paying Fisher $1,000 to $10,000 per event and dined with her afterward. Allred, Ms. Fisher’s lawyer, said that her client, “is a single mom focused on raising her young son.” Fisher has performed in a variety of softcore sex movies including Intimate Obsession, Body of Influence and Sheer Passion. Fisher has a degree in political science and had worked as a vice president in a commercial real estate company.
It is interesting that Fisher was able to land a job as an HP marketing contractor, given her background in softcore R-rated sex films, which were filmed when she was in her 30s. But it’s also starting to become more clear why HP’s board didn’t want word of this episode to leak out. The board likely feared that HP and Hurd would suffer a lot of embarrassment if the whole industry found out he was accused of sexual harassment by a former softcore porn actress. That might also be why Hurd decided he might not be an effective leader anymore. Of course, we can’t assume that this woman is a one-dimensional “former softcore porn actress” and that she wasn’t a good marketing consultant. But it’s clear that during scandals, such nuances are lost. You can imagine HP becoming the butt of a lot of jokes, like, “HP CEO Summit presents a screening of Sheer Passion.” Hurd probably correctly assumed that he would not be able to command the respect of his employees in such a situation.
Hurd had been at HP for five years, helping it grow from $80 billion to $115 billion in revenue during that time. Under Hurd, HP surpassed IBM in revenues and grew to more than 300,000 employees.
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