Commentary

Mark Hurd, Master Salesman Who Led 3 Companies, Dies At 62

Mark Hurd, who took a leave as co-CEO of Oracle last month to focus on his health, died Friday of undisclosed causes. He was 62.

Hurd “made his name as a strong-willed leader who helped revive the fortunes of two companies, including Hewlett Packard, where he was CEO last decade. But some of his other judgments courted controversy, and he was pushed out of HP after a company investigation found misconduct,” Robert Wall and Asa Fitch write< /a>  for The Wall Street Journal.

Hurd, a Manhattan native, attended Baylor University on a tennis scholarship, graduating in 1979 with a degree in business administration. He started his business career in 1980 as a junior salesman at the National Cash Register Corporation (NCR), becoming its CEO in 2003. He left NCR for the CEO position at Hewlett-Packard in 2005.

Hurd joined Oracle as president in 2010 and was named co-CEO with Safra Catz in 2014. He oversaw Oracle’s global field operations “with a focus on strategy, innovation, leadership and customers,” according to his Oracle bio.

“Armed with the belief that spending money in the short-term could benefit long-term growth, Hurd wasn’t shy about bolstering the sales force. ‘We are going to invest, but we are not changing our revenue goals,’ he told Business Insider. ‘If you tell me something will grow the top line, you have unfettered access to the checkbook,’ ’’ the Oracle bio continues.

“Mark Hurd was in his element at Indian Wells. The tennis tournament -- more formally known as the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California -- provided him with the perfect backdrop to flex his passions: tennis and selling stuff. Hurd turned the event, which Oracle Corp. cofounder Larry Ellison bought in 2009, into a two-week database and software sales extravaganza,” writes  Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance for ITPro Today

“He could be seen strolling the grounds or at nearby hotels constantly schmoozing with customers and using his connections with tennis legends like Chris Evert and Rafael Nadal to win people over and help close a deal. Along the way, Hurd, Oracle’s co-CEO, would sneak in a hit -- he had a big serve and liked to flaunt it -- or check on the American college players he was mentoring and the young pros he was quietly helping with financial aid. For Hurd, business and pleasure were one and the same and almost always intermixed in his life,” Vance continues.

“All of us will miss Mark’s keen mind and rare ability to analyze, simplify and solve problems quickly. Some of us will miss his friendship and mentorship. I will miss his kindness and sense of humor,” Ellison writes  in an announcement on the Oracle website.

“Hurd’s death is the latest setback in what has been a difficult few years for Oracle. As the company transitions from traditional enterprise products to cloud computing, it has struggled to match competitors, such as Amazon, Google and Salesforce,” Marie C. Baca points out for The Washington Post

“In July, the Pentagon issued a strong rebuke of the company, accusing it of using ‘poorly-informed and often manipulative speculation’ in a dispute over a $10 billion cloud-computing contract,” Baca continues.

A scandal at HP broke out under Hurd’s leadership in 2006 “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,” write  CNBC’s Jordan Novet and Lauren Feiner.

“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,” Novet and Feiner add.

Long-term, “Hurd helped restore Hewlett-Packard’s personal computer business to a No. 1 position,” Antonio Neri, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, tells  The New York Times’ Don Clark. But Philip E. Meza, co-author of “Becoming Hewlett Packard,” adds: “Hurd had never forged a long-term strategy for the company.”

His stint at HP ended in 2010 with a “surprising scandal: the disclosure that Mr. Hurd had had a relationship with a female consultant to the company and had fudged some related expense reports,” Clark writes.

Hurd “was a workaholic and considered Oracle’s performance as a reflection on his character. Very few people are as committed to their work or as passionate in their pursuit of it,” concludes Bloomberg’s Vance.

He is survived by his wife, Paula (Kalupa) Hurd, a former senior executive at N.C.R., and two daughters.

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