Mark V. Hurd, who turned Hewlett-Packard into the world’s largest technology company on the back of fierce fiscal discipline, has been ousted from his post for the lowliest of corporate offenses — fudging his expenses.
H.P.’s board stunned Silicon Valley and Wall Street late Friday by announcing Mr. Hurd’s resignation as chairman and chief executive of the computing and printing giant, involving what it said was a “close personal relationship” with a contractor who helped with the company’s marketing.
The woman’s lawyer contacted the company in late June, charging sexual harassment. While the directors were investigating that charge, they found inaccurate expense reports that covered payments made to the woman. The directors said, however, that the sexual harassment charge was unsubstantiated.
The board charged that Mr. Hurd, 53, failed to disclose his use of company funds. It urged Mr. Hurd to resign, but he balked and offered to compensate the company for the disputed funds, said to range from $1,000 to $20,000, according to a person close to Mr. Hurd who was briefed on the situation but was not authorized to speak publicly.
The board, however, insisted. “This was a necessary decision,” said Marc L. Andreessen, a venture capitalist and a director.
Mr. Hurd’s actions “showed a profound lack of judgment,” said Michael Holston, executive vice president and general counsel whom Mr. Hurd had brought into the company in 2006 after he investigated a boardroom scandal involving company spying on board members, employees and journalists. That investigation ended with the resignation of the company’s chairman and the elevation of Mr. Hurd.
Mr. Holston also said Mr. Hurd used inaccurate expense reports to conceal the relationship with the woman. Mr. Hurd, who is married, has denied having a sexual relationship with the woman, according to the person briefed on the situation. Mr. Hurd declined comment.
Gloria Allred, the celebrity lawyer who has agreed to represent the woman, said, “We want to make clear that there was no affair and no intimate sexual relationship between our client and Mr. Hurd.” She declined to make the woman available for an interview or to identify her.
The company’s stock plummeted almost 10 percent on Friday on the news of Mr. Hurd, known for his straight-talking, analytical approach to business . Mr. Hurd rewired H.P. through layoffs, acquisitions and relentless cost-cutting measures.
The woman worked for H.P. between the fall of 2007 and the fall of 2009, having been hired by the office of the chief executive, the company said. Sources close to the company and familiar with the situation said that over a number of months, the contractor attended events for H.P. in Asia, Europe and the United States, and often dined alone with Mr. Hurd after the events. The contractor’s fees ranged from $1,000 to $5,000 for events in the United States and up to $10,000 for overseas ventures.
Even though the same contractor was present, Mr. Hurd said that he dined alone or with a different person on his expense reports, these people said.
A person briefed on this situation said Mr. Hurd had described the situation as “surreal and bizarre.” Mr. Hurd has denied any romantic context in the relationship with the contractor and talked about the board being swayed by the potential public relations problems that would follow accusations of sexual harassment.