HP board called 'idiots' for forcing out Hurd

Hewlett-Packard's decision to fire chief executive Mark Hurd in a sex and expenses scandal is "the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs" in 1985, according to another Silicon Valley titan, founder of Oracle Larry Ellison.

Mr Ellison, a close friend of Mr Hurd, penned a furious email in defence of the ousted executive, describing the expenses violations of which he is accused as "petty" and probably the fault of an underling.

"In losing Mark Hurd, the HP board failed to act in the best interest of HP's employees, shareholders, customers and partners," Mr Ellison wrote in an open letter. "HP had a long list of failed CEOs until they hired Mark, who has spent the last five years doing a brilliant job reviving HP to its former greatness." Mr Hurd's departure knocked 10 per cent off the company's share price within minutes of its announcement late last Friday.

The story of Mr Hurd's downfall has captivated attention in the tech industry and beyond. It was triggered by an accusation of sexual harassment by a former soft-porn actress, Jodie Fisher, who Mr Hurd had hired to act as a hostess at corporate events. Ms Fisher says the accusations have been settled privately between the two of them and the HP board found no evidence against Mr Hurd on that score, but it did find thousands of dollars in expenses that were mischaracterised as the chief executive wined and dined the actress. Both Mr Hurd and Ms Fisher say they never had sex.

Mr Ellison likened the loss to that suffered by Apple in 1985, when Mr Jobs lost a boardroom struggle with his chief executive.

"That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn't come back and saved them."