Is Larry Ellison's hiring of former HP CEO Mark Hurd an act of inspired brilliance or an example of emotional overreach that will create more drama and corporate intrigue than even Oracle can stand?
Here we have a guy who for five years was the top honcho at the world's largest IT company, a $125 billion powerhouse where he was the unquestioned alpha male. Now he's going to a company about one-third that size where he not only won't be #1 but he also won't even be #2—rather, he'll be #2B, as he shares the title of president with incumbent Safra Catz and fills the spot vacated yesterday by Charles Phillips, whose resignation was simultaneous with Hurd's arrival.
Armed with not only an ego the size of Wyoming but also a proven track record of reinvigorating a tarnished brand and rebuilding one of the world's acknowledged leaders in technology, Hurd presents the exact opposite profile of what most companies would look for in a #2 executive (okay, okay, #2B).
Then again, Oracle is not like most companies. And as surely as night follows day, Larry Ellison is not like other CEOs. In an industry stuffed with prolific achievers and fearless, intensely capable leaders, Ellison stands out as the one CEO whose achievements, personality, and unquestioned control of his company make the resurrection and assimilation of Mark Hurd not just possible but almost inevitable.
(For the most comprehensive strategic analyses available anywhere of Hurd's time at HP, please be sure to check out our "Recommended Reading" list at the end of this column.)
Just look at the context in which Ellison positioned Hurd in the press release announcing his hiring: "There is no executive in the IT world with more relevant experience than Mark," pronounced Ellison in the press release announcing Hurd's hiring. "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."
So to answer the question I raised above—inspired brilliance or emotional overreach—I vote for inspired brilliance.
And it's a big but: