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Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 05:20 am PT (08:20 am ET)

Ouster of HP CEO compared to when 'idiots' at Apple fired Steve Jobs

Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison this week compared the ouster of HP CEO Mark Hurd to when Steve Jobs was run out of the company he founded — Apple — in the 1980s by "idiots" on the board of directors.

Hurd resigned from his position with the world's largest PC maker last Friday, after an investigation into sexual harassment claims found that the company's standards of business conduct were violated. HP's board of directors reportedly ousted Hurd based in part on the advice of a public relations specialist, who felt that the sexual harassment complaint could embarrass the company. The company's internal investigation also found alleged expense account irregularities.

This week, The New York Times reached out to Ellison, a personal friend of Hurd's, for comment. Responding in a passionate e-mail, he compared Hurd's exit to when Jobs was kicked out of Apple in 1985.

"The HP board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago," Ellison wrote. "That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn't come back and saved them."

Jobs, of course, returned to Apple in 1997, when the company purchased NeXT, of which he was then CEO. He took over the company he co-founded when it was near-death, and in the years since found great success, earning him the title CEO of the Decade from Fortune.

As for Hurd and HP, the former CEO oversaw a period of great success for the computer maker, as the company was consistently the top selling PC maker both domestically and worldwide. In the June quarter, HP commanded a 25.7 percent market share in the U.S. on sales of 4.7 million PCs. Its sales grew 14.2 percent year over year.

Hurd temporarily took over as the head of HP in 2005 as the interim CEO. Then, in 2006, he took the position full-time after the previous chief executive, Patricia Dunn, resigned. Dunn stepped down after it was revealed she had authorized a team of independent security experts to investigate board members and journalists over an information leak that revealed the company's long-term strategy.

"In losing Mark Hurd, the HP board failed to act in the best interest of HP's employees, shareholders, customers and partners," Ellison wrote to the Times. "The HP board admits that it fully investigated the sexual harassment claims against Mark and found them to be utterly false."