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HP sues Hurd to keep secrets from Ellison

HP 'idiots' threaten Oracle relationship, says Larry

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Updated Hewlett-Packard has sued disgraced former chief executive Mark Hurd in an effort to stop him joining Oracle.

The world's largest PC marker claims that in joining Oracle, Hurd would breach confidentially agreements signed at HP and may reveal trade secrets and confidential customer information.

HP – which went to court on Tuesday, the day after Oracle's CEO had crowed about nabbing Hurd – is asking a California court to bar Hurd from joining Oracle or any other competitors and to stop him disclosing sensitive information either directly or indirectly.

The PC giant is also asking that its former CEO be monitored by a court-appointed "master" to ensure he complies and keeps mum on HP's secrets.

Ellison fired back a tart statement accusing HP's board of vindictiveness and of endangering the companies' partnership. He called the suit an action against Oracle, even though it's Hurd HP is prosecuting.

Oracle's CEO first singled out HP's board for personal attack last month when they accepted Hurd's resignation, when he called them "idiots".

“By filing this vindictive lawsuit against Oracle and Mark Hurd, the HP board is acting with utter disregard for that partnership, our joint customers, and their own shareholders and employees.

"The HP Board is making it virtually impossible for Oracle and HP to continue to cooperate and work together in the IT marketplace."

Oracle named Hurd as a company president and board member on Monday while most of the US was out of the office on Labor Day, saying he will report to tennis buddy Ellison.

In its filing HP said it would be impossible for Hurd to work at Oracle without revealing confidential company trade secrets and information. "Hurd has put HP's most valuable trade secrets and confidential information in peril," HP's suit claimed.

"In his new position, Hurd will be in a situation in which he cannot perform his duties for Oracle without necessarily using and disclosing HP's trade secrets and confidential information to others."

The suit quotes press and analyst reports of Hurd's recruitment that said former Sun Microsystems' accounts were being "most heavily mined" and "HP accounts are the most valuable in the large enterprise space".

HP's suit includes confidential agreements covering customers, personnel, technology developments, compensation, and other subjects signed by Hurd during this tenure at HP. It also points to paragraphs from Oracle's latest 10-K filing that lists HP as one of its main competitors.

Also included is Oracle's press release announcing that it had hired Hurd. In that release, Ellison congratulated Hurd for doing a brilliant job at HP. "I expect he'll do even better at Oracle," Ellison said.

"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."

Ellison poured scorn on the HP board for allowing Hurd to resign in August after it emerged he'd misreported expenses following a sexual harassment probe. He compared it to when Apple's board ditched Steve Jobs in the 1990s.

This is the same board of the company Oracle partners with on servers, FYI.

Through his daring hire, Ellison clearly had Hurd in mind to help Oracle execute on the Sun hardware business that it now owns, converting Sun shops to Oracle shops and taking on IBM.

While Oracle owned Sun's hardware business, Ellison, president Safra Katz and outgoing president Charles Phillips lacked the experience to convert customers. Hurd would have substituted bluster for hands-on experience and opened doors by convincing customers that Oracle's in it for the long haul.

According to a statement from Hurd in Oracle's press release, Oracle's strategy of combining hardware and software would beat IBM on enterprise servers and storage, with products due to be unveiled at Oracle's OpenWorld conference this month in San Francisco, California.

Unfortunately for Hurd, HP saw the job of taking on IBM servers and storage hardware in the enterprise as its job and not that of partner Oracle. ®

This article has been updated to include a statement from Oracle.

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