HP Board Blindsided by PR Campaign on Hurd's Behalf

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The board of Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ) was blindsided by the public relations campaign waged on behalf of former CEO Mark Hurd, who resigned last week over alleged ethics violations.

Hurd, who collected a $12.2 million cash payment as part of his separation, hired Los Angeles-based public relations firm Sitrick & Co. days before quitting, The Wall Street Journal reported without naming its sources. Sitrick is known for handing crisis communications for big names such as celebrity Paris Hilton.

HP's directors "hoped he would move on," one source told The Wall Street Journal. The board would rather focus on "protecting the brand and taking the higher ground."

Since Hurd's departure, his friend Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle (ORCL), also wrote an e-mail challenging the board's decision. Hurd did not ask Ellison to write the e-mail or read it before it was sent.

Hurd resigned following an allegation of sexual harassment from Jodie Fisher, a woman who did contract work for HP's marketing department. The allegation led to the uncovering of allegedly falsified expense claims, in which Hurd listed other executives as his dinner guests when he was actually dining with Fisher.

The details of the sexual harassment claim are not known. Fisher, 50, has publicly said that she never had a sexual relationship with Hurd, and that she's saddened by the fact that he has lost his job.
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