The FiRe 2019 Photo Gallery is now open!
I was first introduced to Mark Hurd via email during his time as CEO of HP, on the recommendation of his director of communications. It then took a few months for us to finally meet at his Palo Alto HQ. In that first intense (and fun) conversation, he rapid-fire answered all of my questions, rattled off a long litany of facts and figures about current and past performance, and proved without a doubt that he had the operations and sales down to the dollar and the week.
In general, this is what CEOs do; but I immediately recognized that Mark was a master, with both a deep understanding and a quick recall of everything he needed to know about his company.
As was true everywhere Mark served, he presided over stock price growth during his time in office that was in the hundreds of percentage points. He made sure that his people made their numbers, and that meant that he made his, and the company made its numbers, and the Street loved Mark Hurd.
When he got sideways with the then-famously dysfunctional board, he quit HP. Meg Whitman, one of that board, became the next CEO, and the path turned to firing tens of thousands of employees and splitting the company in half. At the time of his departure, I emailed him predicting that he would be back in the CEO saddle in very short order; and Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison put out what may still, today, be Larry's most famous quote:
The H.P. board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs. That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn't come back and saved them.... In losing Mark Hurd, the H.P. board failed to act in the best interest of H.P.'s employees, shareholders, customers and partners.
Larry then proved himself right by hiring Mark as co-CEO with Safra Catz, as we all watched HP spin out of control like a sad scene from Top Gun.
In brief, Mark was my favorite CEO, and I've known many. When news of his death came public, I posted a short farewell on Facebook:
I've known many, many technology CEOs over the years, and Mark stands out head and shoulders above the rest. A straight shooter with a wry sense of humor, and perhaps the most reliable deliverer of results in corporate history. Someone you could count on, and have fun with, at the same time. We will all miss you, Mark, and our hearts go out to everyone at Team Oracle for their loss.
Mark appeared as my partner and guest at a number of events, including a series of our Annual Prediction events in the Valley, and of course, as my Centerpiece Conversation subject at our FiRe conferences, going all the way back to our earliest days at the Hotel del Coronado.
Everyone who attended will remember the rather hilarious confusion that ensued when Mark joined me onstage, and then, for some reason unclear to me then and even now, just did not sit down in our designer interview chairs. There we both stood, frozen in time, mics in hand, as I waited to understand exactly what he had in mind. "Shall we walk?" he asked, and for the next 60 minutes we walked back and forth, up and down, all the way to stage left; then we'd turn like some kind of unrehearsed vaudeville act and go all the way to stage right, rewind and repeat, as we talked about everything Oracle.
It was a huge success, and became a template for our interviews from then on.
I know that for all of us at SNS and FiRe, and for everyone on Team Oracle, Mark will continue to be with us in spirit, walking back and forth across the stage of our fond memories. Thank you, Mark, for all of it. - mra.
Top two photos: Mark Anderson (L) and Mark Hurd, FiRe 2013. Bottom photo: FiRe 2014.
Dan Lamont and Future in Review
When I first became serious about making accurate predictions, I found a mental device that was surprisingly helpful: rather than ask, "What will happen next ?" I found that zooming forward a decade or so, and then looking back at what had happened, provided a good deal of clarity that didn't exist amid the noise of the moment.
As SNS members know, we chose an unusual theme for this year's Future in Review Conference: "Anticipating the Unexpected." In many ways, this has been Job One for us at SNS since we first started in 1995. In fact, one of our rules about selecting subjects for each weekly issue is that it cannot be something already covered properly elsewhere, and it should be important enough and surprising enough to warrant members' serious attention.
As we at SNS start looking at our predictions for next year, I thought it would be useful to members to jump forward 10 years and look back on what was about to happen in the interim - and why. We'll look at a few mid- to long-term issues often not discussed which have major impact, such as nations' reluctance to date to use nuclear weapons, to see how technology and the global economy may change in anticipated, but unexpected, ways.
Let's start right there and move forward....