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Mark Hurd, co-chief executive of Oracle, is dead at 62

Mr. Hurd took a medical leave of absence last month.
Mr. Hurd took a medical leave of absence last month.Associated Press/File 2011/Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Hurd, who was known for both success and scandal at Hewlett-Packard and most recently served as co-chief executive of the software company Oracle, died Friday. He was 62.

Larry Ellison, Oracle’s chairman and chief technology officer, announced the death but did not give a cause or say where Mr. Hurd died. Mr. Hurd, who lived in the Bay Area, had taken a medical leave of absence in September.

“Oracle has lost a brilliant and beloved leader who personally touched the lives of so many of us during his decade at Oracle,” Ellison wrote.

Mr. Hurd spent 25 years at the business technology company NCR, where he became chief executive and developed a reputation for cutting costs and improving the company’s stock price. In 2005, he became the surprise selection to lead Hewlett-Packard, a Silicon Valley pioneer known for computers and printer technology.

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He arrived at Hewlett-Packard during a time of tumult. His predecessor, Carly Fiorina, had won a bruising proxy battle with the heirs of the company’s cofounders over her plan to buy Compaq Computer a few years earlier. But divisions and business problems at Hewlett-Packard ran deep; Fiorina was fired in February 2005 and Mr. Hurd hired the next month.

Where Fiorina was known for bold technology strategies and polished public presentations, Mr. Hurd excelled at operations. He set about cutting costs, including by laying off about 15,000 employees. People who know him say he was fond of mottos like “vision without execution is hallucination.”

Mr. Hurd would stand before a whiteboard and recite copious statistics about operations, said Philip E. Meza, coauthor of “Becoming Hewlett-Packard.” That attention to detail served Mr. Hurd well, as the company’s earnings and stock price improved.

“He had an incredibly high sense of urgency,” said Antonio Neri, chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, one of two companies created in the 2015 breakup of Hewlett-Packard. “He was really focused working and making things leaner and more efficient.”

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Mr. Hurd joined Hewlett-Packard as its board was mounting a kind of spying operation aimed at discovering how leaks about the company were reaching journalists. Disclosure of the company’s tactics later caused a firestorm of criticism, culminating in Mr. Hurd’s being called before Congress to explain what had happened. He said he had approved the operation without adequate consideration.

“There is no excuse for this aberration,” he testified. “It happened, and it will never happen again.”

Mr. Hurd helped restore Hewlett-Packard’s personal computer business to a No. 1 position, Neri said. But Meza added that Mr. Hurd had never forged a long-term strategy for the company.

His stint there ended in 2010 with an equally surprising scandal: the disclosure that Mr. Hurd had had a relationship with a female consultant to the company and had fudged some related expense reports.

He was swiftly hired by Oracle, a pioneer of the database software market. Ellison had long spoken glowingly of Mr. Hurd’s prowess in operations. Mr. Hurd helped lead Oracle with Ellison and Safra Catz, who was also given a co-chief executive title, which she still holds.

At Oracle, in Redwood City, Calif., Mr. Hurd was closely associated with the company’s shift to offering online versions of its software, a business imperative compelled by the rise of potent competitors like Salesforce.com.

“Mark was my close and irreplaceable friend, and trusted colleague,” Ellison wrote in the announcement on Friday. “All of us will miss Mark’s keen mind and rare ability to analyze, simplify and solve problems quickly.”

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