How Steve Jobs Tried to Save a Fellow Rebel CEO

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When Hewlett Packard ousted CEO Mark Hurd in 2010, another once-ousted CEO named Steve Jobs tried to help him get his job back. As soon as Jobs heard the news of Hurd's resignation in August 2010, he sent an email to Hurd, report Bloomberg Businessweek's Ashlee Vance and Aaron Ricadela in their cover story about the legacy that current HP CEO Meg Whitman inherited. Beyond sympathy over a fellow Silicon Valley being forced out, Jobs felt concern over how the fate of HP might affect companies like his own. "It's the founding company of the Valley," Apple Board Bill Campbell explained to Vance and Ricadela. "You don't want to see it go away." At the time, HP's meltdown had yet to unfold, and the company's sales in the quarter before Hurd's departure actually totaled $126 billion. "Mr. Hurd pulled off one of the great rescue missions in American corporate history," wrote The New York Times's James B. Stewart in a 2011 article. Jobs wanted HP to maintain that. 

Hurd left not because of his inability to run the company but because of his "detractors," Stewart reported, which might help explain why Jobs felt for him. Jobs had plenty of those on his first run at Apple, and Hurd's ruthless style — he wanted the lowest 10 percent of performers fired each year, for example — created a lot of infighting. (Hurd was also accused of sexual harassment.) 

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Jobs's attempt at reconciliation at HP, which came in the form of a two-hour walk around his neighborhood and offers to write letters to the HP board, didn't work. But in November 2010, Léo Apotheker took over, much to Jobs's chagrin: "Hewlett and Packard built a great company, and they thought they left it in good hands," Jobs told Walter Isaacson for his biography. "But now it’s being dismembered and destroyed. It's tragic." That dismemberment continues. Last quarter HP reported a meagre $30 billion. And the infighting continues as well: Remember that $8.8 billion meltdown the company underwent because Whitman couldn't get along with a little company it had acquired? Looks like Jobs might have been right, as usual. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.