Mark Hurd resigned as CEO and Chairman of Hewlett-Packard in 2010 after an investigation into whether he sexually harassed one of HP's contractors, but at least one influential person didn't want to see him leave: Steve Jobs.
Shortly after HP announced Hurd's resignation, Jobs reached out to Hurd to offer his perspective as someone who had also been forced out of a company years before and urged Hurd to return to HP, according to a new report in Bloomberg Businessweek.
"The pair spent more than two hours together, Jobs taking Hurd on his customary walk around [his] tree-lined neighborhood. At numerous points during their conversation, Jobs pleaded with Hurd to do whatever it took to set things right with the board so that Hurd could return," the report says, citing multiple anonymous sources familiar with the exchange. "Jobs even offered to write a letter to HP’s directors and to call them up one by one."
Jobs apparently believed that without Hurd in charge, HP's board would undo the progress Hurd had made as the head of the company and do significant damage to the business. Ironically enough, it was one of Jobs closest friends Larry Ellison who ultimately undermined that effort by convincing Hurd to work at Oracle, rather than return to HP. Since then, HP has had two CEOs, some disastrous business decisions and the stock has tanked to its lowest level in a decade.
Perhaps Jobs was right to worry.
It might sound strange that Jobs would offer to go out of his way to help a company that competes with Apple on several fronts, but HP was more than just a competitor to Jobs, it was a key part of Silicon Valley and his personal history in the tech world.
Jobs has repeatedly said that the company's founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were his heroes growing up, and he famously called up Hewlett at age 12 for spare parts. Hewlett laughed, gave him the parts he wanted and even gave him a summer job working on the assembly line at HP.
The story of the exchange between Hurd and Jobs is reminiscent of another anecdote about Jobs' soft spot for HP. During his final visit to Apple's campus before resigning as chairman of the company, some of Apple's board members gloated about the recent news that HP was abandoning WebOs and the TouchPad its iPad competitor. Rather than celebrate this, as some on the board might have expected, Jobs lamented the news.
“Hewlett and Packard built a great company, and they thought they had left it in good hands. But now it’s being dismembered and destroyed," Jobs told the group, according to Walter Isaacson's biography of the former Apple co-founder. “I hope I’ve left a stronger legacy so that will never happen at Apple."