HP defends Apotheker, blasts departed CEO Hurd

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard Co on Monday defended new CEO Leo Apotheker from the latest barrage of criticism, and accused Mark Hurd of lying repeatedly to the board while still HP’s chief.

Leo Apotheker, CEO of SAP attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 28, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

HP said there was no evidence that former SAP AG boss Apotheker, whose appointment disappointed some in the investment community, was involved in misconduct that took place at the German software giant, as asserted by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera.

That aggressive stance, laid out in a letter to the New York Times by incoming Chairman Ray Lane, could further inflame the company’s already testy relationship with partner and rival Oracle Corp, which hired Hurd as co-president in September after he left HP.

Oracle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has blasted HP’s board for hiring Apotheker. His company and SAP have been embroiled in a contentious lawsuit related to SAP’s TomorrowNow subsidiary, which the company closed in 2008.

Oracle has accused SAP of gaining unauthorized access to its password-protected customer support website, allowing SAP to copy thousands of Oracle software products and other confidential materials. In August, SAP said it would accept liability for copyright infringement in the lawsuit.

In his letter, Lane said Oracle “has never offered any evidence that Mr. Apotheker was involved,” and said TomorrowNow’s conduct took place before Apotheker became CEO.

HP named Apotheker CEO in late September, following the surprise ouster of Hurd in early August for filing inaccurate expense reports related to a female contractor.

HP’s board has been criticized by some analysts, shareholders and other business leaders for pushing Hurd out.

But Lane said Hurd “repeatedly” lied to the HP board as they were investigating his conduct.

“No board can retain a CEO who violates the trust and integrity needed to lead a public company,” Lane wrote.

Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Richard Chang