Some days it almost feels like we are living in a Reality TV show with all of the drama.
Over the long weekend when most of us were planning on taking it a bit easy, Mark Hurd showed up at Oracle and we seemed to have the first in a new series called “The Crazy Rich Old Men of Silicon Valley.”
What follows is what you would have seen had this show been on TV.
The story opens with the surprise departure of the sexy CEO, Carly Fiorina running HP because she was spending too much time trying to get herself set up for a government job.
This is now the Spin Reality Drama “Carly for Congress” and not enough time actually being a CEO. But the best episode was when her publicist and CFO in waiting got caught “doing it” on company property (jets) and got fired.
Much of that season surrounded the new drama power team of Tom Perkins, Patty Dunn, and Mark Hurd. Patty, a well-liked, attractive, but relatively naïve woman didn’t realize that the Non-Executive Chairman job that had all the responsibility of a Chairman but none of the Authority was going to be a career ender.
Many thought a blond should have been cast in that role but the producers clearly thought the result would be too stereo typical. Perkins wanted to run HP, and was the first crazy old man, and Hurd were at odds initially.
So Hurd got Dunn to get rid of Perkins and then threw Dunn under a bus (well we all saw that coming) and she got fired for identity theft even though the people that actually did it reported to Hurd.
Hurd then takes over total control of HP and appears to manage the company to the clear twin goals of making himself richer and all of the HP employees poorer.
He becomes filthy rich and the richer he gets the nastier to employees he becomes but he is untouchable because the financial analysts love him. A classic villain it was only a matter of time before the writers gave him a new challenge.
As we got halfway through the season he was having trouble holding the interest of large powerful buyers and his tennis partner, Larry Ellison, (initially only a walk on part) suggests he do what Larry’s company (Oracle) does and bring in beautiful women to “entertain” these executives.
This works well until, pick one a) Fisher (the attractive woman) feels she wants more out of the relationship, doesn’t get it, and gets fired and files a sexual harassment law suit using a) a high priority attorney or b) turns down the career making offer to clean Hurd’s pipes, gets fired and files a sexual harassment lawsuit.
We got to pick our favorite ending.
The Season ends with Larry suggesting (one would think Mark would have stopped listening to him by this point) that Mark quickly settle out of the situation in order to save his job because that is what worked for Larry.
Fortunately, or unfortunately if you like bad-boy Hurd, Mark gets fired before we know whether a) or b) are true.
Still, it was a great cliff hanger. Season one ends with Larry writing letters to the NY Times, Hurd trying to find anyone that is interested in him, and the disappearance of the alleged mistress. Where is she, will she ever show up again, what actually happened? We may never know – but Playboy ran pictures anyway.
Season Two: Crazy Rich Guys Together
Season Two opened this weekend with the surprise hiring of Mark Hurd by his buddy and questionable advice supplier Larry Ellison. This brings in a new player, Oracle’s Safra Catz as the new female lead.
Safra is kind of like a small Cat Woman often wearing black and seen as the power player in Oracle. She is no Patty Dunn but to get where Hurd needs to be he will have to get rid of her.
He can’t use something like identity theft to do it and will have to come up with something new, creative, and different. She will be a vastly more capable opponent than Patty Dunn was but could be vulnerable to the “good old boy” attack of rendering her redundant because she is a woman.
Watching Hurd try to set Catz up, and Catz dance around the traps, will be much of the drama this season but not the only drama.
Also new is the drama between Oracle and HP because HP knows that despite Hurd’s public disclosure (they don’t seem to trust him much for some reason) of targeting IBM he is actually going after HP for daring to fire him.
This is for either a) believing Fisher’s lies or b) For not helping to cover up his CEO overactive libido. He wants him some HP payback and the more blood the better.
So, expect plenty of lively fights between all of the players. Will Hurd get Catz fired before Catz can get the proof she needs to get rid of Hurd? Will Hurd get a new mistress and will she put up a billboard? Will the new mistress be a Catz agent working to nail Hurd (Catz is CFO)? These questions may or may not be answered this year.
Wrapping Up: Season Finale and Season Three Teaser
We are looking forward to a stunning season finale as HP just overpaid substantially for 3Par thanks largely to Mark Hurd’s untimely departure and another very similar company Pillar Data Systems has shown up.
However, Pillar Data Systems is over 80% owned by Larry Ellison which promises a possible new entry into next season’s show, this new entry could be Dell. With Dell who only had a short walk in part this year with the 3Par drama.
But what a part they got $72M while leaving HP with a property they had potentially over paid a billion dollars for. Show me one real reality TV show that throws around this amount of money.
So we may get new players for Season 3 and even Microsoft and Google may show up as primary characters after playing small bit parts over the last two seasons.
This looks to be a multi-year run for what may be the technology Reality TV show of the century, it is just kind of a shame it won’t actually make it onto TV. Then again, who knows, when you have two Crazy Rich Guys and Safra (Cat Woman) Catz anything is possible!
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently, he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.