We’re back with another Amazing Apple Anecdote. This week we learn how Steve Jobs tried to save HP, the company he worked for before Apple.
Three days after he’d resigned as CEO under pressure from the company’s board of directors, Hurd received an e-mail from Steve Jobs. The Apple founder wanted to know if Hurd needed someone to talk to.
Jobs had lived through a similar experience decades earlier when Apple’s board turned on him, an analogy Hurd and Jobs’s mutual friend and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was quick to draw, condemning Hurd’s ouster as “the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago.”
Hurd met Jobs at his home in Palo Alto, according to people who know both men but did not wish to be identified, compromising a personal confidence. The pair spent more than two hours together, Jobs taking Hurd on his customary walk around the 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. Jobs even offered to write a letter to HP’s directors and to call them up one by one.
Over the previous five years, Hurd had built HP into the largest technology company in the world; sales in 2010 were $126 billion. Shares were on a tear, and profits kept rising. Yet Jobs told Hurd and other friends that he thought the board would unwind HP’s progress and send the company spiraling into chaos.
By offering Hurd counsel, Jobs wasn’t merely lending a friend psychological support. Rather, he was going to bat for the legacy of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. A healthy HP, Jobs urged, was essential to a healthy Silicon Valley. “It’s the founding company of the Valley,” says Bill Campbell, the chairman of Intuit and an Apple board member. “You don’t want to see it go away.”
Jobs ultimately could not pull off a reconciliation between Hurd and HP. He passed away a little over a year later, but lived long enough to see his prediction borne out.
HP always had a special place in Steve Jobs’s heart, and the similar situation that he suffered in 1985 compelled him even more to help. That’s it for this week but we will be back soon with more. For now though, enjoy!