Letter details scandal involving ex-Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd
A letter detailing allegations of sexual harassment against former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chief Executive Mark V. Hurd is renewing interest in the year-old scandal but is not expected to hurt his position at Oracle Corp.
The content of the June 2010 letter, which eventually led to Hurd’s ouster from HP, was disclosed Thursday after a federal judge in Delaware ruled that releasing the letter would not violate Hurd’s privacy rights.
Prepared by Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, the letter chronicles Hurd’s alleged efforts to woo Jodie Fisher, an event hostess and actress. Fisher alleged in the letter that Hurd had used his position and expense account at HP in repeated attempts to lure her into a sexual relationship.
Hurd left HP in August 2010 after the allegations surfaced, and was quickly hired by Oracle, a Silicon Valley technology firm and HP rival. At the time, Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison publicly mocked rival HP for what he called “the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs” in 1985.
Ellison’s stalwart support of Hurd meant that the details of the allegations, which probably were known to Oracle at the time, are not likely to substantially interfere with Hurd’s work at Oracle, industry analysts said.
“His boss hired him because he saw a huge opportunity to get a good businessperson,” said Robert Breza, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. “Will [Hurd] lose face in front of some of his colleagues for the salacious allegations? Probably. But in the real world, does it affect his business decisions? No.”
The letter’s account of Hurd’s relationship with Fisher covers a period of years, and includes details about how Hurd allegedly discovered Fisher after seeing her on a reality television show in 2007, and making arrangements to offer her a job hosting half a dozen HP events in exchange for $30,000.
But, the letter alleges, the lucrative deal was Hurd’s way of getting close to Fisher.
“It is clear you had designs to make her your lover from the onset using your status and authority as CEO of HP and HP monies,” Allred wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Associated Press.
Amy Wintersheimer, an attorney for Hurd, said in a statement that the letter was “filled with inaccuracies” and that Fisher acknowledged that it was. Wintersheimer also noted that in its own investigation, HP concluded that no sexual harassment had taken place.
“The truth is, there never was any sexual harassment,” Wintersheimer said, “and there never was any sexual relationship, which Ms. Fisher has confirmed.”
Allred declined to comment.
The letter describes scenes in which Hurd allegedly asked Fisher, a former Playboy model, to his hotel room on the pretense of discussing business, but then touched her inappropriately and attempted to persuade her to spend the night.
“This began an uncomfortable dance that went on for nearly two years,” the letter said, a period in which Fisher allegedly avoided Hurd’s advances while still attempting to hold onto her well-paying position.
During that period, the letter alleged, Hurd often tried to cajole and impress Fisher, including by bragging about his other extramarital relationships, and by once showing Fisher that his checking account contained “over a million dollars.”
At another point, the letter said, Hurd told Fisher that he regularly made personal endowments of up to $30,000 to various promising athletes. Fisher deemed such gifts to be “inappropriate,” the letter said.
The letter also claimed that Hurd once disclosed to Fisher details of a secret business negotiation in which HP was attempting to buy a technology company called EDS for close to $14 billion, a deal HP announced later that year. According to the San Jose Mercury News, that allegation triggered a review by federal authorities, but no information has been made public about whether the advance information was used to make illicit stock profits.
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