Jodie Fisher's Playboy Pics Show Why HP's CEO Had to Go

Last Updated Aug 11, 2010 1:21 PM EDT

Jodie Fisher's Playboy shoot, which emerged on Gawker this morning, proves that Oracle's Larry Ellison is wrong about Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)'s decision to force out CEO Mark Hurd, and that the HP board was right to follow the advice it got from APCO, a PR firm that advised Hurd be ousted. Ellison, the Oracle (ORCL) CEO, told the New York Times:
The H.P. board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago ... That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn't come back and saved them.
Indeed, Hurd's exit wiped 10 percent off HP's stock, and APCO -- a privately owned PR agency with 550 publicity agents inside it -- is now taking some of the blame. But the alternative would have been even worse. The board's decision was based on a worst-case scenario presented to the HP board by APCO, which suggested that there was no way HP or Hurd could shake the scandal if the chief stayed on:
... the representative from the APCO public relations firm even wrote a mock sensational newspaper article to demonstrate what would happen if news leaked.
At a presentation to the directors of H.P., the public relations specialist from APCO cited recent sexual imbroglios like the one that diminished Tiger Woods. The specialist cautioned that only 20 percent of top executives survive these types of allegations and then they usually end up leaving because of the weight of negative publicity.
The anti-APCO case is that if you sift through the details, you find that Hurd and Fisher did not sleep together, HP's own investigation found the sexual harassment allegation was false, and that the irregularity in his expenses was de minimis at best. By rights, HP should have ignored APCO and Hurd should have kept his job.

But APCO had probably researched "marketing consultant" Jodie Fisher's background. Despite Hurd's legal settlement sealing her allegations, her lawyer was Gloria Allred, one of California's most publicity hungry attorneys. The HP board is famously filled with leaks. Word would have gotten out, and despite the lack of substance, the media probably would have found Fisher, eventually.

Her R-Rated movies were there for all to see on IMDB.com. Her demo reel -- the title card of which shows her wearing red lingerie -- is now on YouTube. She had appeared as a "cougar" on the reality TV show "Age of Love." And now she's a former Playboy model.

Every one of these revelations would have fuelled a fabulous tabloid fire. TMZ would have camped out at Hurd's home. Suddenly, his insistence -- true as it may be -- that nothing happened would have looked really weird against rumors that the board had investigated the matter and reached a legal settlement.

Hurd would have been unable to make any public appearances for the company without reporters showing up. His employees would have spent their time reading gossip sites for updates. The episode would, indeed, have been incredibly juicy and incredibly prolonged. Hurd may well have been forced out in the end.

Now look at the current situation for HP: Hurd is gone. Fisher is what she is. The company's connection to the scandal is essentially ended. It can move forward and find new leadership. Sure, its reputation is a little tarnished, but the alternative was a lot worse.

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