5 reasons HP's Mark Hurd resigned

The official rationale for the former CEO's departure is vague

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During HP's conference call with investment analysts Friday, Andreessen was asked whether the CEO position will be filled by one person or whether it was possible to split the CEO into two different roles. Andreessen didn't rule out the possibility. "We will examine that question over the course of the search," he said.

The potential P.R. disaster was too great

This is the era of WikiLeaks and TMZ, and the prospect of this story breaking on its own may have been too much for HP's board to bear. Even if this issue with Hurd was fixable, HP wanted the problem over now.

Hurd's story had a tabloid element. The woman, identified Sunday night, as Jodie Fisher, is a single mom with a college degree, business credentials and experience as an actress. Fisher "has been in various television shows and films, some of which were R-rated when she was in her 30s," her attorney Gloria Allred, a high-profile Los Angeles litigator, said in a statement Sunday night.

Fisher was also in the short-lived NBC show Age of Love, where male contestants are "given the chance to choose a woman in her 20s, or a 40-something on the prowl." According to a biography of her on the show's site, Fisher was 46 at the time the show aired for one season in 2007.

Another problem for HP was Gloria Allred herself. Allred is a Los Angeles attorney who is to the legal profession what Angelina Jolie is to action movies: She loves explosive, big box office productions.

Allred describes herself as "the most famous woman attorney practicing law in the nation today," and a fighter of the "rich and powerful." Her clients have included Amber Frey, girlfriend of convicted murderer Scott Peterson, and the family of O.J. Simpson's murdered ex-wife, Nicole.

HP was simply enforcing its standards of conduct

HP investigated allegations of sexual harassment in the case and determined that Hurd had not violated the company's sexual harassment policy. But it did find that Hurd had violated corporate standards of business conduct.

Michael Holston, HP's general counsel, told investors on the conference call Friday that Hurd "had a close personal relationship" with a contractor hired by the CEO's office. What did "close personal relationship" mean here?

In the absence of clarity from HP, Allred's law firm issued a one sentence statement to spell out what wasn't involved: "There was no affair and no intimate sexual relationship between our client and Mr. Hurd." Fisher reiterated that point yesterday.

What Holston said was this: "The investigation revealed numerous instances where the contractor received compensation and/or expense reimbursement where there was not a legitimate business purpose. And the investigation found numerous instances where inaccurate expense reports were submitted by Mark or on his behalf that intended to or had the effect of concealing Mark's personal relationship with the contractor."

HP's publishes its "Standards of Business Conduct" on its Web site. Enforcing those standards may have been the paramount reason behind Hurd's resignation.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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