Hewlett-Packard is suing its ousted chief executive, Mark Hurd, to prevent him immediately taking up a senior position at rival computer giant Oracle.
A month to the day after he was forced to resign over a sex and expenses scandal at HP, Mr Hurd was named co-president at Oracle, and put in charge of the company's expansion into the sale of IT hardware – pitching the company into a headlong battle against HP.
HP immediately launched a lawsuit in California, saying he had signed a two-year confidentiality agreement. "In his new positions, Hurd will be in a situation in which he cannot perform his duties for Oracle without necessarily using and disclosing HP's trade secrets and confidential information to others," the suit said, adding that allowing him to join the company would "give Oracle a strategic advantage as to where to allocate or not allocate resources and exploit the knowledge of HP's strengths and weaknesses".
Oracle shares jumped 6 per cent in early trading yesterday on news of Mr Hurd's appointment, adding about $6bn to its market value. Larry Ellison, Oracle's founder, became Mr Hurd's most outspoken public defender in the sex and expenses scandal that led to his resignation.
Mr Hurd left HP after an internal investigation found he had submitted misleading expenses claims that disguised an inappropriately close relationship with a former soft-porn actress hired by the company to organise corporate events.
The actress, Jodie Fisher, had accused him of sexual harassment, but the pair settled that claim privately. In a public relations blitz after his resignation, Mr Hurd's representatives argued that he had not personally submitted the misleading expenses claims.
"There is no executive in the IT world with more relevant experience than Mark," Mr Ellison said yesterday. Both at HP and earlier in his career, Mr Hurd has combined software and hardware businesses, the better to satisfy all the IT needs of big corporate customers.
Oracle said Mr Hurd could make it a "$100bn business" – triple its current annual revenue – and would take on other big rivals in the industry, including leader IBM.