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Silicon Valley gossip surrounds HP, Oracle

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Hewlett-Packard, the poster child for the era of garage startups that morphed into billion-dollar tech giants, has offered up their ex-CEO Mark Hurd as the star of this month’s Silicon Valley soap opera. Hurd resigned at the beginning of August after a harassment claim made by actress Jodie Fisher. And while HP’s continual turnover of upper management through scandal and intrigue — Hurd’s predecessor, Carly Fiorina, is now running for the U.S. Senate — shows no signs of stopping, Hurd’s story is just beginning.

Hurd is close friends with not just B-movie actresses but also his all-powerful buddy Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle. And while HP is in the spotlight, Oracle is hiding in the shadows. And Ellison is not going to quietly let his tennis buddy resign with a $12 million severance.

No — in an e-mail to The New York Times just days after Hurd’s resignation, Ellison made clear his feelings about Hurd’s removal, comparing it to the firing of Steve Jobs from Apple in the mid-1980s. And we all sat around saying, “Silly Larry Ellison, e-mailing The New York Times isn’t going to change anything.”

But what would? Ellison’s decision to hire Hurd as co-president of Oracle (dumping Charles Phillips, who has hardly made the news). Yes; why just write e-mails to the media complaining about others’ bad decisions when you can just hire your ousted friends to run your own billion-dollar company?

And while HP might have been willing to dump Hurd to (attempt to) save face in the wake of the sexual-harassment-claim-that-wasn’t, it turns out they don’t really like the idea of Hurd going to work for a competitor, and have thus decided to take the truly American route and sue him — not based on the non-compete clause that didn’t exist in his contract, but for the obvious necessity that he would relinquish vital trade secrets in his new role at Oracle. And while, yes, he does likely know something about HP after four years as CEO, California law will make this a tough suit to win.

But will Hurd make a difference as Oracle co-president? Who will HP find to fill his moderately sized shoes? What funny thing will Larry Ellison say next? Stay tuned for what continues to be the height of tech drama.