Everyone loves a happy ending, and with Mark Hurd joining his close pal Larry Ellison as president — or is it co-president — of Oracle late Monday afternoon, tears streamed down my cheek. It was like Lassie coming home; Tarzan saving Cheeta from the animal poachers; or George W. Bush finding a mentor in Karl Rove.
Not everyone was happy, though. Hewlett Packard, where Hurd was CEO before being canned last month, immediately responded by filing a dubious lawsuit.
Since the suit was filed one day after Hurd joined Oracle, it’s clear that HP would sue him even if he went to work for the American Red Cross.
Who knows if the Ellison-Hurd marriage will last, but with Ellison owning a controlling 23% of his company, Hurd won’t have to worry about a wimpy-ass board crumbling under him.
What makes this tag team so much fun is that Ellison is the T-Rex of the software enterprise game. He gobbles up companies like they’re jelly beans. Just as importantly, he’s a longtime pal of Hurd, who sold him billions of dollars of HP hardware annually. It’s like George Steinbrenner hiring Vince Lombardi.
Ellison came up from the streets and built the planet’s most powerful software enterprise company. He and Mike Tyson have a lot in common, but at least Larry won’t bite your ear off.
So what’s Larry going to do with Mark? For starters, Hurd could be the first real “partner” that Larry’s ever had. They see the world in the same way: throw the widows and orphans overboard first. And prisoners? Don’t ask.
Both guys love to buy companies the way some women shop for shoes. Ellison gets bored after the ink is dried. For Hurd, that’s where the fun begins. His specialty is cutting bloated payrolls to increase companies’ bottom lines.
At HP, he earned the nickname of “Hurt ’Em Hurd” because he slashed 40% of the employees in his five years as CEO. On the other hand, stockholders loved him for driving up the stock price 500%.
Over the last few years, Ellison bought close to 60 companies, but he’s never had anyone as ruthless as Larry to clean out the dead wood afterwards. Consequently, Oracle should have enough walking dead still around to keep even Hurd busy while he and Larry plan their next strikes.
The Larry and Mike show promises to be one of the great teams of the ages, assuming they don’t kill each other. Remember that wonderful Disney epic when CEO Michael Eisner hired and then fired his pal Michael Ovitz in a messy divorce made for TV’s Access Hollywood. Ovitz walked away with $150 million for six months’ work.
There’s no question that the boys are out to build the mother of all software companies: the Standard Oil or General Motors of our era. Maybe they can’t monopolize their industry, but now that T-Rex and Godzilla have teamed up, who’s to stop them? Uncle Sam? Maybe, but with tech changing at light speed, don’t bet on it.
The best part, though, is HP’s lawsuit against Hurd. Not only did Ellison immediately blast HP’s firing as an incredibly stupid act in the New York Times, but with Oracle’s recent acquisition of HP competitor Sun Microsystems, Ellison said the Hurd lawsuit made it virtually impossible for the two companies to work together in the IT marketplace where, historically, they have been the closest of partners.
As we say in Washington: “A few billion here, a few billion there, and soon you’re talking about some real money.”
Bill Regardie was the founder and publisher of Regardie’s Magazine.