Last Updated Aug 10, 2010 1:43 PM EDT
The CEO of HP, Mark Hurd resigned last Friday, under pressure from the HP board of directors.
Apparently Hurd hired E-list actress Jodie Fisher as a "marketing consultant" and took her on numerous business trips. She subsequently hired celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred to bring a charge of "sexual harassment" against Hurd. The resulting internal investigation concluded the accusations were unsubstantiated, but also uncovered some expense report discrepancies, in the form of payments to Fisher.
The mainstream press is taking a "how did he think he could get away with it?" angle, but I think that Hurd is the real victim here... not HP and certainly not Fisher.
The notion that HP's board is upset about Hurd's fudged expense account is entirely laughable. Consider: Fisher's fees for "marketing advice" ranged from $1000 to $5000, with up to $10,000 for overseas ventures. When Hurd was fired, he was negotiating a new $100 million contract. Even his severance package is a hefty $12 million.
For a successful CEO of a company of $114 billion a year company to lie about a $10,000 fee is the proportional equivalent of an average employee filing an expense report for the full fare of a cab ride that was actually shared with a colleague. So it's not about the money.
It's not even about the frisson of sex. The corporate world is full of executive bigwigs who run around nailing anything in a skirt, or trying to. And there are plenty of CEOs who have women on paid staff who are (for all intents and purposes) their mistresses.
Hurd got fired because his would-be squeeze hired feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, a termagant whose clients tend towards the decidedly seedy, like porn star Joslyn James and other alleged mistresses of Tiger Woods. HP's board smelled a PR disaster and dumped Hurd like ticking time bomb.
What a bunch of sissies.
Let's face it: Hurd was the victim of a shakedown.
Both Hurd and Fisher insist that no sexual activity took place, which means that Fisher is claiming that her "consulting" fees were justified. So let's take her at her word. Let's assume she was an independent contractor who was providing value to the company and was subsequently the victim of Hurd's unwanted attention.
If Fisher was an actual contributor, though, you'd think she would figure out that Hurd's was more interested in having sex with her than in her marketing skills. If she has any marketing talent at all, she'd know pretty darn quick when Hurd's attention changed from her brochures to her brassieres.
Disappointing as that might be, the appropriate response would be to stop taking the consulting fees and find another client. Not continuing to take the money and then going to a bloodsucking lawyer when the gravy train runs out.
Fisher is claiming that she never wanted to have him fired, but what's more likely is that Fisher was stringing Hurd along, and (if she's telling the truth) never intending to have sex with him, and then, once the "relationship" had run its course, trying to find a way to squeeze a little more out of him. That makes him the victim in my book.
And then, to cap it off, she goes public after he's fired, thereby achieving the celebrity that escaped her during her acting career, which features a starring role in the movie Blood Dolls, a movie so forgettable that nobody ever bothered to review it.
If there's any object lesson to be had here for Hurd, it's that it probably wasn't the smartest move to get involved with a woman whose idea of a good time is attending the premiere of a film entitled Pig Hunt:
While I'm not going to cry all that long for a CEO who gets a $12 million severance package, I can't help but think that Hurd is the real victim here.
HP's board should have shown some guts and simply given Hurd a slap on the wrist, at most. I mean, if companies start firing all the top executives who chase skirts and fudge their expenses, half the Fortune 1000 will be without any leadership at all.