Oracle to reward Hurd handsomely once legal clouds clear

Ellison launches tirade against HP board in wake of lawsuit

This morning we learn what Mark Hurd's going to earn from Oracle after the legal briefs and press releases stop flying around and he gets to settle into a corner office.

Yesterday we learned that Oracle boss Larry Ellison just can't help himself when it comes to chest-thumping threats, empty though they may be. While HP's legal team is suing to keep Hurd from joining Ellison's inner circle, Ellison is talking crazy talk about severing the working relationship between the two tech giants.

Hurd's base salary will be a paltry $950,000, according to press reports, but he will also be eligible for $10 million in bonuses and stock options to beat the band: 10 million for showing up, plus five million per year for the next five, presuming he can perform and behave well enough to keep this job. (Granted, this compensation package is a step down from the $24 million he earned last year while eliminating 6,400 jobs.)

Meanwhile, Ellison pounds the table and stomps his feet over a perfectly reasonable concern on the part of HP that Hurd might convey a trade secret or two about the company that made him walk the plank to the company that tossed him a lifeline.  

"Oracle has long viewed HP as an important partner," Ellison said yesterday in a statement. "By filing this vindictive lawsuit against Oracle and Mark Hurd, the HP board is acting with utter disregard for that partnership, our joint customers, and their own shareholders and employees. The HP Board is making it virtually impossible for Oracle and HP to continue to cooperate and work together in the IT marketplace."

Chill, Larry. Seems here that last part - Ellison's threat to go nuclear on HP - can only be read one of two ways: Either Ellison is ready, willing and able to undermine the IT operations of tens of thousands of HP/Oracle shops over a personnel matter ... or he's just trash talking.

This, too, shall pass.

One reason Ellison need not have thrown the nutty is that his lawyers are likely to prevail over HP's lawyers, according to legal experts.

From a BusinessWeek story:

Hewlett-Packard Co.'s lawsuit seeking to block former Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd from working at Oracle Corp. may be hard to win because California's courts favor letting employees move freely, legal experts said.

The theory that trade secrets will inevitably be disclosed "won't work in California as a reason to prevent someone from taking a job," said Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School who specializes in intellectual property. "Neither will California courts enforce a noncompete agreement. HP will have to show real evidence that Mark Hurd is about to use its secrets at Oracle."

Technology companies including HP, Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp. and Google Inc. have clashed over hiring in the past, with one side trying to bar managers privy to sensitive information from moving to a rival. In this case, that strategy collides with public policy in California, where Hurd and both companies are based, that promotes allowing people to change jobs to keep working in their areas of expertise.

HP will line up their own experts who see things differently, of course, but it would be an upset indeed if they succeeded in keeping Hurd from taking his place by Ellison's side.

One last note: In addition to Hurd's pay package, filings yesterday showed Ellison's own compensation total slipped 17% last fiscal year ... to $70.1 million. Anyone want to pass the hat?

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