HP sues to block Hurd from joining Oracle

Legal action signals HP's fear of Oracle's rise to full-service enterprise technology company

Whereas investors were eager to see Mark Hurd become the new co-president of Oracle, HP was clearly not. After a huge day on Wall Street for Oracle, with shares soaring 6 percent, HP filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California in Santa Clara, accusing Hurd of breaching his contract with the company, according to reports.

The lawsuit (the text of which is available here, via The Wall Street Journal) alleges that Hurd could use his deep knowledge of HP to give Oracle a huge competitive edge. Hurd resigned from his position at HP last month in amid allegations of sexual harassment. 

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Both the stock surge and the lawsuit point to the value Hurd could bring to Oracle, which is working hard to evolve beyond its database roots and to capitalize on its recent acquisition of Sun to become a leading purveyor of enterprise hardware.

Hurd -- who was found not to have violated HP's sexual harassment policy but blameworthy for violating HP's business standards -- represents a huge potential win for Oracle. During his five-year tenure, HP made many high-profile acquisitions, including EDS, Opsware, 3Com, and Palm. Those acquisitions, along with Hurd's aggressive cost-cutting tactics, helped transform the company from a maker of desktop computers and printers to a full-service technology company capable of outearning business-tech behemoth IBM.

Oracle, meanwhile, is at a transitional period with its sights set on becoming a rival to tech giants like HP and IBM, as well as aspirants such as Dell. The Sun acquisition marks a critical step in that direction, though Oracle hasn't yet demonstrated that it knows best what to do with Sun now that it has assimilated the company. Hurd's experience with managing large-scale acquisitions could be a huge help.

HP's swift action to block Hurd from co-presiding at Oracle indicates the sort of threat the company poses, particularly with a strong injection of new leadership. HP has already managed to throw an obstacle in enterprise upstart Dell's path by winning the bidding war for 3Par. This lawsuit blocking Hurd from donning an Oracle co-president hat, if successful, could have a similar benefit.

This article, "HP sues to block Hurd from joining Oracle," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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