HP settles action over former CEO

Tue, Sep 21, 2010, 01:00

Hewlett-Packard has settled a legal dispute over Oracle's hiring of Mark Hurd, as the two companies moved to publicly mend fences and put the contentious issue behind them.

The companies said in a joint statement yesterday that "Hurd will adhere to his obligations to protect HP's confidential information while fulfilling his responsibilities at Oracle", but did not provide further details.

Mr Hurd agreed to modify the terms of his separation agreement, waiving his rights to roughly 345,000 restricted stock units, which were granted to him in January 2008 and December 2009.

It was not immediately clear how much of Mr Hurd's original exit package - which had been estimated at $34.6 million - would be affected by the settlement.

Based on the amount of stock units and HP's close of $39.39 in New York, the shares Mr Hurd would give up could be worth nearly $13.6 million.

Representatives from HP and Oracle declined to comment when asked whether the settlement would impact Mr Hurd's role at Oracle.

Mr Hurd's separation deal with HP did not include a non-compete provision, which is generally unenforceable in California, but did include a two-year confidentiality pact.

Mr Hurd was named Oracle co-president on September 6th, a month after he was ousted in a controversial fashion from HP, where he had been chief executive since 2005. HP said he filed inaccurate expense reports related to a female contractor.

HP sued Mr Hurd shortly after Oracle hired him, seeking to block him from joining the company. HP said Mr Hurd's hiring by the rival technology firm put HP's trade secrets "in peril".

HP is the world's largest technology company by revenue, a dominant force in PCs, servers, IT services and printers. Oracle is the third-largest software company.

HP's case against Mr Hurd was widely seen as unlikely to succeed, and legal experts said the settlement allowed the company to claim a small victory.

Mr Hurd's departure from HP touched off an ugly spat with Oracle, its long-time partner and more recent rival. The companies are competing directly in the computer server market, following Oracle's purchase of Sun Microsystems.

Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison blasted HP's board - first for pushing his friend Mr Hurd out, and later for trying to block Oracle from hiring him. HP interim  chief executive Cathie Lesjak acknowledged that the relationship between the two companies had been "strained" by the matter.

But HP and Oracle reaffirmed a commitment to their partnership yesterday. Oracle's software runs on HP's server and storage products, and the companies have more than 140,000 joint customers.

"Oracle and HP will continue to build and expand a partnership that has already lasted for over 25 years," Mr Ellison said in a statement.