Saturday, August 7, 2010

H.P. Board Ousted CEO on Friday

Mark V. Hurd, who turned Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) into the world’s largest technology company on the back of fierce fiscal discipline, has been ousted from his post for the lowliest of corporate offenses — fudging his expenses.

H.P.’s board stunned Silicon Valley and Wall Street late Friday by announcing Mr. Hurd’s resignation as chairman and chief executive of the computing and printing giant, involving what it said was a “close personal relationship” with a contractor who helped with the company’s marketing. 

The woman’s lawyer contacted the company in late June, charging sexual harassment. While the directors were investigating that charge, they found inaccurate expense reports that covered payments made to the woman. The directors said, however, that the sexual harassment charge was unsubstantiated.  The board charged that Mr. Hurd, 53, failed to disclose his use of company funds. It urged Mr. Hurd to resign, but he balked and offered to compensate the company for the disputed funds, said to range from $1,000 to $20,000, according to a person close to Mr. Hurd who was briefed on the situation but was not authorized to speak publicly.  The board, however, insisted. “This was a necessary decision,” said Marc L. Andreessen, a venture capitalist and a director.

Mr. Hurd’s actions “showed a profound lack of judgment,” said Michael Holston, executive vice president and general counsel whom Mr. Hurd had brought into the company in 2006 after he investigated a boardroom scandal involving company spying on board members, employees and journalists. That investigation ended with the resignation of the company’s chairman and the elevation of Mr. Hurd.

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