Mark Hurd, the co-CEO of Oracle, has died at the age of 62.
Hurd had taken a leave of absence from Oracle one month ago, in September 2019, due to unspecified health reasons. “Though we all worked hard together to close the first quarter, I’ve decided that I need to spend time focused on my health, he said in the announcement of his leave. “I love Oracle and wish you all success during my absence.”
Mark Hurd was born in New York on Jan. 1, 1957. His father was a financier, according to the Financial Times, and his mother was a physician’s daughter, according to Fortune. Hurd spent his childhood in New York and Miami. He began playing tennis in high school. He was accepted into Baylor University in Waco, Texas, on a tennis scholarship and played on the Christian school’s tennis team. Hurd graduated in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
He joined ATM and cash register company NCR as a junior salesman in San Antonio in 1980, and in 1990 he married his wife, Paula, who was an NCR executive. He was appointed CEO in 2003. Two years later he moved to Silicon Valley to be HP’s new CEO, a position he held from 2005 to 2010, when its share price more than doubled, although Hurd's tenure wasn’t free of controversy.
As CNBC reminds us, in 2006, the “pretexting” scandal broke out over attempts to determine who at HP leaked information to the media. Outside investigators, pretending to be the people they were researching, presented the last four digits of the Social Security numbers of board members and news reporters to telephone operators to obtain details on their phone calls.
“While many of the right processes were in place, they unfortunately broke down and no one in the management chain, including me, caught it,” Hurd said on a conference call with reporters at the time. Board members left, federal agencies began investigations, and Hurd testified before a congressional committee. HP agreed to pay $14.5 million in a settlement with the California attorney general.
Then in 2010, HP share prices tumbled 8% after the tech company announced his resignation amid a sexual-harassment claim against him. HP concluded that although Hurd had not violated the company’s policy on sexual harassment, he did fail to comply with its standards.
In a letter to Hurd, lawyer Gloria Allred described his meetings with Oracle contractor Jodie Fisher in various cities and said he had made undesired advances to her client. Hurd’s expense reports included meals with his security guard, Denis Lynch, but the meals were with Fisher, and over time most of HP’s board members came to feel they had lost trust in him, The Wall Street Journal reported. Hurd settled with Fisher, who had once modeled for Playboy magazine, for undisclosed terms.
Larry Ellison, then CEO of Oracle, came to Hurd’s defense. The two were good friends, and Hurd had frequently played tennis at Ellison’s home in Silicon Valley, The New York Times reported. Following Hurd’s resignation, Ellison criticized HP’s board in a letter to the newspaper, saying it had “just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago.” Within a month, Hurd had a new job, as president of Ellison’s company alongside Catz.
“Mark did a brilliant job at HP and I expect he’ll do even better at Oracle,” Ellison said in a statement at the time. “There is no executive in the IT world with more relevant experience than Mark. Oracle’s future is engineering complete and integrated hardware and software systems for the enterprise. Mark pioneered the integration of hardware with software when Teradata was a part of NCR.”
Four years later Hurd and Catz, were named as Oracle’s CEOs and Ellison became chief technology officer. The company did not consider them co-CEOs.
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In announcing Hurd’s leave of absence, the company said Catz and Ellison would assume Hurd’s responsibilities. While he was president of Oracle he was considered as a candidate to be CEO of Microsoft, the Wall Street Journal reported.
At the time of his leave of absence from Oracle, he sat on Baylor’s board of regents. The Hurds have given money to Baylor, and the university plans a welcome center bearing their names.
Survivors include his wife and daughters Kathryn and Kelly.