Hurd's stumble may also trip HP

When Mark V Hurd, HP’s chief, appeared at them, he sometimes relied on Jodie Fisher, a 50-year-old former reality television contestant turned HP marketing consultant, who would introduce him to customers and keep him company.

Mark V Hurd was ousted from Hewlett-Packard over his dealings with Jodie Fisher. “I was surprised and saddened,” she said. Hurd’s relationship with Fisher, which led to his ouster last week, has put an unsavoury end to one of the great executive runs in recent American business history. And it has stunted a long search by HP’s employees for stability and pride at the patriarch of Silicon Valley companies.

On Sunday, Fisher, who had accused Hurd, 53, of sexual harassment, disclosed her identity in a statement from her lawyer and said that she had never had a sexual relationship with Hurd. “I was surprised and saddened that Mark lost his job over this,” she said. “That was never my intention.”

Hurd, who is married, has settled the matter with Fisher for an undisclosed sum. HP’s top executives on Sunday said they would no longer discuss Hurd’s situation and vowed to find a new chief executive to keep the business running smoothly. “We are not going to slow down one bit,” said Cathie Lesjak, Chief Financial Officer and interim chief executive. But turning the page on the scandal will not be easy.

While Lesjak maintained that investors remained confident in the company, HP’s share price tumbled 10 per cent on Friday as word of Hurd’s departure rippled through Wall Street.

Stabilising presence

Analysts had come to view Hurd as stabilising presence who galvanized the formerly chaotic company, and as the glue that held a complex organisation with more than 300,000 employees together.

They saw him as having a knack for finding new areas where HP could lower costs, and for maintaining order among top executives. And Hurd led the company’s charge past IBM as the top seller of technology. In a nod to Hurd’s influence on the company, Lesjak said, “Disciplined execution has become part of HP’s DNA.” The new leader of HP will have to maintain fiscal discipline while also coming up with a second act that stimulates new growth for the company.

Part of Hurd’s role in recent years has included showing up at CEO summit meetings where customers would sometimes spend a weekend at a resort in the US, Europe or Asia with their families. 

People close to Hurd portrayed him as abhorring business lunches and dinners, preferring instead to do business on his own.

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