Mark Hurd and Tony Hayward: two CEOs that led their companies to prosperity and hope through most of their tenure, now forced to resign because of a media explosion that will likely overshadow the years of positive energy they brought to their companies.
Granted, Tony Hayward’s offense was far more heinous in the eyes of most people. His apathetic response to the BP oil catastrophe was absurdly off-putting, but for the majority of his 3+ years at the helm of BP, he brought the company to a global dominance in a way it never had before, and in fact managed to clean up a rather catastrophic disaster that his predecessor left him.
For Mark Hurd, the story is different but similar. By allegedly falsifying a few expense reports over paid dinners, and having a sexual harassment case that amounted to nothing more than a settlement and didn’t even fall under HP’s “sexual harassment” statute, the man who was perhaps the company’s strongest CEO in over a decade is now saying goodbye.
Jodie Fisher, the woman who first brought up the allegations against Hurd, now says she is “surprised and saddened that Mark Hurd lost his job over this.” She told the Associated Press, “That was never my intention.”
The girl who charges you with sexual harassment comes to your defense. That doesn’t happen every day.
But there’s a little problem when the CEO of a company does anything that casts doubt on his personal character. He could be the best damn executive in the history of mankind, but if he crosses the line and does something morally wrong, the entire brand of the company risks becoming tarnished.
Hurd also faced a whirlwind storm when he stepped into the CEO office, as the dust was still flying after the HP pretexting scandal, where the company was caught spying and wiretapping on journalists to try to uncover a mole in the company. But Hurd whipped everything back into shape. He became a model CEO and a popular subject for business schools across the country.
And yet, he was human. For those who only slightly tune into the world of tech news, Hurd will be remembered as the guy who was fired because of sexual harassment. That’s not the case. The harassment charges allowed the erroneous expense filings to be brought to the forefront, and that is the issue that forced him to resign. Of course, discretion is the better part of valor and he probably could have done better there as well.
Regardless, like so many embattled CEOs before him, Hurd will not go down in history as the formidable corporate leader he was for more than five years, but rather as the guy who had a few instances of indiscretion. Such is the nature of running a big company.