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Mark Hurd Has Died (cnbc.com)
204 points by big_chungus on Oct 18, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 179 comments

I feel really bad for Hurd and his family. Why work that hard? The 24/7 CEO lifestyle seems like such a waste of time if you end up working it to the day you die. Like, why work that hard? For the family you never see? The vacation home you can visit for 5 days a year? The yacht you leave parked 360 days a year? The job is so demanding and so hard it seems like Mark worked himself to death, literally. He probably could have retired happy and rich at like 40 years old...

I understand when an artist or someone creative gives their life to their work: it's an obsession that is personal. But giving your life to Oracle just for the money seems like a life wasted at that level. Even the day to day workers over there get to go home and see their families every night. At the C-level, you basically live in a private jet and never see your family... Very sad.

For some of the best, making and guiding companies is their art and obsession.

That's the nice take on it.

For others (or from a different perspective) for some making money itself is a bit of an addiction that swallows everything else.

I know a great guy -- very kind, very smart. But he doesn't really know how to have fun if he's not making money. That's his game and he's great at it. But I feel like he's missing out on a lot out of life. And he understands that on an intellectual level. But he can't imagine doing anything else.

I am personally very conflicted when it comes to people who almost insanely dedicate themselves to one pursuit. On one hand I feel sorry for them because I feel like they miss out on a lot. On the other hand, I'm very glad they exist. They do things no one else can or will do and our world is better off for it.

> the best

The best at what? I think that’s the real existential question. The best at making money? Okay. Maybe I’m not as interested in having “created significant shareholder value” on my gravestone.

There's a human factor to all of this. An executive's day is not (typically) spent coding, or looking at spreadsheets, or analyzing forecasts. Those may be parts of an executive's job, but the bread and butter is working with people. Coordinating other's efforts - whether to maximize shareholder value, build a particle accelerator, make a movie, market useless crap to consumers, or whatever - involves a lot of dealing with people, successfully navigating complex interpersonal relationships, making compromises, etc. Some people really thrive on this and derive joy from the work itself. I personally find it exhausting, as I suspect do a large number of the people who frequent HN.

Do you know any hardcore gamers? Ask them if they want "Led successful assault against Foozle the Evil Wizard" on their gravestone. Maybe they do, and that's OK.

In other words, don't project your own idea of a fulfilled life onto other people. "Creating shareholder value" might just be the most important thing in the world to someone like Hurd. It's not your place to say he's wrong or misguided, as long as he doesn't do anything illegal to make it happen.

Agree with Flatline. Sometimes a person's job is their passion. We all know software developers who love to code, nights, weekends, for work...

The CEO job is the ultimate programming job. You are orchestrating people, money, processes, sales, product development, IT and more...

Probably why CEOs are paid multiples of a typical worker.

Very few can handle the job.

>For some of the best, making and guiding companies is their art and obsession.

Again, why?

If it wasn't "making and guiding companies", but e.g. someone was obsessed with making spaghetti paintings, and working for it the same hours, would we consider them balanced?

> would we consider them balanced?

No, but I never heard anyone say "again, why" about Van Gogh. The why is self-evident in retrospect.

I wouldn't put my art before everything else in life, and I'm not saying Mark Hurd did, but I get that some people do and once in a while that results in an incredible gift to humanity.

Most of the time it doesn't, but I don't see how you get a Van Gogh without a lot of people giving an unhealthy amount of themselves to potentially boring, mediocre shit.

Van Gogh was utterly miserable though. I don't think he'd consider his life a success.

To frame it with someone I know much better, what about Nikola Tesla? Profoundly accomplished, objectively made enormous contributions to engineering that made huge improvements to the quality of life for a large chunk of humanity. He was utterly obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge and nothing else. On his death bed he regretted his work ethic and wished only to have ever known the touch of a woman.

We may be benefiting from their obsessions, but they aren't.

Precisely! If we eliminate all misery we probably lose art in the deal. And then what?

Of course it’s possible to make smaller strides while living a more or less healthy life but I think for some (Tesla, Erdős) it just tips. But then again Erdős was maybe happy with his life...

Sticking with the scientists for a moment, maybe Feinman is exemplary. But are a bunch of Feinmanns enough?

OTOH, Newton never married either, and apocryphally was proud that he's a virgin.

Even a genius may not be immune to FOMO.

I wouldn't put my art before everything else in life

Which is why you're not Mark Hurd or Vincent Van Gogh.

Your family will (presumably) remember you fondly, and that's your reward. It will have to be enough. If it is, then good for you.

It's not what everybody else wants out of life, and that's OK.

Well I’m not entirely without ambitions for immortality but yes, I assume I’ll never be that immortal and I’m cool with it.

Funny though I bet nobody who didn’t know him personally will remember Hurd in 50 years. Maybe a case study in B-school, but they don’t build monuments to folks who ran other people’s companies. Not that it isn’t crazy hard work, just that I don’t think a Hurd or a Cook is much concerned with their place in history.

It's tough to assess just how great a manager he was, I'll definitely grant you that. He took over from Carly Fiorina at HP, and she wasn't exactly a tough act to follow (although her predecessors obviously were.) As long as he didn't set the building on fire, he was going to come out looking good after her tenure.

And certainly, nobody who worked at Oracle will be remembered as one of the all-time best-loved business figures.

I mean, why are there people who dedicate themselves and a huge chunk of their time on this Earth to a sports team? Or finding the best food? Or travel to the prettiest most interesting places? Or going to the best parties? There are plenty of those. That's even more of a mystery to me. At least the person building a company is creating something and doing something for others.

Balance has a cost, too. I consider myself pretty balanced. And I'm happy being balanced. Mostly. But I understand that I will never be truly great at anything. As long as I insist on balance, I will only ever be pretty good. Luckily enough, pretty good has been good enough. But still, I wonder what it would be like to pick one horse and ride it.

They probably believe they are working for the betterment of the lives of the thousands of people in their organization. There are at least 100 people in that company they know personally and care about, and they're all rolling up to and depending upon them.

Some of them have kids with medical issues. Some of them have dedicated the same number of years directly supporting him.

If that person feels like those people would all be worse off without them, if he felt Oracle would tank much harder than it has if he stepped away, I could see that weighing on a good person.

No. But that's ok. Why does everyone have to be balanced?

As others have said, some people like to spend 20-30 hours/week training for an Ironmmn, others spend much more than that in front of the TV watching Netflix.

How's that different from working 80 hours/week IF you enjoy it? Just don't force others to do the same.

Without knowing the cause of death, I think it's premature to say that he worked himself to death. It was probably some kind of cancer that probably would have happened anyway. The bigger question I think is, if he could do it over again, would he have tried to spend more of his short time on earth with his family and relaxing/enjoying life rather than working? And even that is not so clear cut-- it may well be that what gave him the most satisfaction in life was the feeling of accomplishment from doing an important job well.

Last year I was diagnosed with neck/mouth cancer. I did three months of radiation and chemo and it cleared it up. Then two months later I went in for a PET scan and the cancer had spread to my liver. So more ration for that. Then six months later another PET scan and the cancer popped up in a new place on my liver. I'm currently on Pembrolizumab and my oncologist wants to give that a few months and see how the lesion is reacting.

I will find out in a few weeks. I don't have a good feeling about this. I have accepted that my time might be up. I'm probably looking at another round of more aggressive chemo. I am doing my best to just not think about this.

I have always enjoyed woodworking but never really spent the money on getting a proper woodshop together. But when I was on the tail end of the first round of chemo I got a lot of credit cards and bought tools. Because, fuck it.

So through all this I spend a lot of time down in the woodshop to keep myself busy. I feel like garbage but it keeps my mind occupied. Even if I had Hurd money I wouldn't want to be sitting on beach. Free time to think is my enemy. Free time results in serious bouts of depression. Basketball, and woodworking is how I am spending most of my time. Something, something, idle hands.

Thank you for sharing your perspective. Wishing you the best. You can consider having added some valuable food for thought in one person's thinking about this disease and how we choose to spend our limited time on this planet.

Totally agree with you on the dangers of free time. We, as humans, were designed to do things. I hope your condition improves and thanks for your comment!

This type of authentic and honest response is why I come to HN. Thank you for sharing and I hope you get some good news soon.

Thank you for writing this. Regardless of what happens, I hope you find the time to create something with your woodworking and upload it somewhere for rest of us to see what you've been working on.

Thanks for sharing. I had also suffered through this sort of ailment and thankfully got through it. I'm glad you are trying to live life as much as you can.

John, thank you for the inspirational message.

Thanks for sharing. Wishing you the best.

Thank you for sharing. Your immune system is searching for an antigen in a process similar to brute forcing a password (thankfully the file has more than one password). Once a password is found, the immune cells multiply like crazy and tumors melt. It can happen at any time. If your cancer is virus related, you can use vaccines to expose your immune system to potential passwords and improve your results. Though I'm not a doctor my gut feeling is that you should do as many different things as possible, that you normally don't. Go deep sea diving, change your diet, change it back, do sprints if you're normally more of an endurance person, etc.

You might want to check out Maitake mushrooms (but talk to your doctor first): https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs...

and even psilocybin, for the mental aspects: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5367557/

Good luck.

Thanks for posting this.

>the bigger question I think is, if he could do it over again, would he have tried to spend more of his short time on earth with his family and relaxing/enjoying life rather than working?

Kai-Fu Lee writes about this in his latest book and he came to the conclusion that he should have prioritised his family much more and that it was pretty much his biggest regret in life. Seems to be very, very common among people who come close to death.

Ironically the act of writing that couldn't have happened unless he continued to prioritize his work over his family.

It was with 100% certainty cancer. He was wearing a wig at one point. No idea what type, but cancer, 100%. Hard to say it was caused by working too hard.

There is no clear cause and effect that chronic stress can cause cancer: https://www.healthline.com/health/can-stress-cause-cancer

Although there is plenty of suspicion that it can (even if indirectly through stress related lifestyle choices like smoking, alcohol, poor food).

I don't think you climb the corporate ladder in the way he did without working long, grueling hours, especially if your career lands you at Oracle of all places.

Maybe. But I blame the work for the death because he only took sick leave a few months back, then suddenly died. That to me says he worked right up until he couldn't anymore. A normal person would be retiring at 65 or so. And while the job may have seemed important, in the grand scheme of things, I don't think it's all that important when compared to family and personal enjoyment. It's not like he worked for a company that regularly saved lives or made a difference in the human experience for anyone. They just sold a database you couldn't ever get off of. And some other stuff they acquired, and also made sure you couldn't get off of. When you get down to it, his life was spent 100% in the pursuit of money, and little else. If it was about changing the world, he'd have worked at a startup.

> But I blame the work for the death because he only took sick leave a few months back, then suddenly died. That to me says he worked right up until he couldn't anymore.

There are plenty of diseases where you die within a few months of diagnoses. For all we know he got his diagnosis and immediately took his leave.

While I agree with your overall sentiment that it's not worth it, you are making so many assumptions as you know nothing about his personal life. Not everyone has a good family life, and it's a dangerous assumption to blame work for it - the causality can often be the other way round (crappy family relations, spouse unwilling to change, etc so find fulfillment in things outside of home).

We just don't know. And it's none of our business.

It's still premature to make such claims, IMO. He may have took sick leave to find out he has some terminal disease, or to deal with such news. And perhaps he didn't want the world to know, I sure wouldn't. I'll stop here because I'm also speculating, but I think it's unfair to make assumptions.

>>> But I blame the work for the death because he only took sick leave a few months back, then suddenly died. That to me says he worked right up until he couldn't anymore.<<<

I don't believe there's enough information to reach that conclusion. It is quite possible that his sickness was sudden or that it was discovered suddenly at which point he took a leave of absence. There are numerous people who go into the hospital for a routine check of - I feel tired/I have a constant headache, etc only to be told they have a life threatening disease. By the time the father of a friend was diagnosed with lung cancer, it was already stage 4 or so and he stopped working then

>A normal person would be retiring at 65 or so.

Mark was 62; maybe you’re thinking of Larry, 75?

Some people just really enjoy what they're doing. Friend of mine's dad is pushing 80 and he still puts in 90 hour weeks (he's a company owner, not a regular employee putting in that kind of time). Sounds like hell to me, but he'd be dead in a week if he quit. It's what he lives for. Hasn't been great for his relationship with his kids and ex-wife, but ... I guess it's what makes him tick.

80 years old, 90 hours a week, ok.

I know, to each their own, right? It's earned him a net worth north of a billion dollars, but for him it clearly has nothing to do with the money. He does not really spend much of it at all, he just works. It's like OCD.

I've seen first-hand that it can become a self-reinforcing problem and solution in one. You spend too much time at work and never develop meaningful personal relationships with your spouse and children. Years later, when most people retire to spend time with the spouse and children (and grandchildren), there's something missing, and the solution is to head back to work, where there can be more substantial professional relationships (and room for denial about the personal side).

Or, maybe they just liked their job.

Reminds me of the recent HN story about the lady who ran a large furniture retail outlet in Nebraska. She was something like 85 years old when Berkshire Hathaway bought the company. It never occurred to Warren Buffett to demand a noncompete agreement from an 85-year-old, but he says he won't make that mistake again.

Maybe he has nothing else he wants to do.

And if so, that's OK.

For a long time I fought with a family member using this exact same argument. Eventually, I realized that his only truly happy state is when he is wrapped up and engaged in his work, and even a little stressed by it. I learned the lesson when he had to take some time off of work due to a health problem, and I never saw him more depressed and miserable than when he couldn't work. There's many ways to enjoy life, and not everyone fits the mold you describe to achieve fulfillment.

Most C levels I know don't consider work to be work in the way you'd consider a 9-5 position - to be in that position with challenges that can take years to overcome, and recognition... Its not a stretch to see why some enjoy it enough to spend their time on it.

I see many in retirement that are just as consumed by their hobbies as they were with their careers.

Spending that time away from family however is difficult to justify.

Maybe he worked that hard, because he enjoyed working above all else? Maybe he died doing exactly what he loved?

Few old people looking back with perspective say that they worked to little...

Problem is, nobody asks life advice from people whose failing was that they worked too little.

Tons of people look back and wish they achieved more and pushed themselves to their potential.

Took more "risks" yes, worked harder? No, the most interesting people I meet in my life hardly work even 40 hours, let alone 60 or 80 hour weeks, they know what important and not...

If you're a writer people value your hard work and long hours. If you're an athlete people value your commitment to your performance. But if you work in business? People think you're an idiot for working hard. I don't know what the difference is. I think people who are miserable at work struggle to understand that other people take joy in it.

Not what I hear. My sister-in-law is an RN at an assisted living facility and she's dealt with people in the very last stages of life. Sadly, many wish they actually worked less and spent more time with loved-ones and friends. Anecdotally, she also noticed that when it's someone's time to go, their feet curl up first.

I think people do look back and wish that they lived their lives to their full potential and took more risks.

Few old people become peak leaders in their respected field.

Actually, that's about the opposite of true. Average age of a CEO is 58. Wealth, power and experience concentrate with age...

> Actually, that's about the opposite of true. Average age of a CEO is 58.

Most CEOs being older people does not mean most older people are CEOs. "Few old people become peak leaders in their respected field" is absolutely true, almost by definition unless you consider a huge portion of people in their field "peak leaders".

I feel like this comment is rather insulting. You shouldn't feel sorry for him -- don't assume that he or his family regretted his lifestyle.

Is being the CEO of Oracle not creative? Is there anything wrong with devoting your life to a company? I would say there is nothing wrong with devoting one's life to a startup, so I don't see why there is anything wrong with devoting one's life to being a CEO.

Maybe some people don't want to die in mediocrity.

Speculating a bit, but I think Mark knew he was not well. He had not been looking good for at least a year. He just kept on working until he physically couldn't anymore. I didn't find the above comment insulting, but exposes a genuine disconnect between the world people like Mark Hurd live in and the world ordinary people like us live in. I myself have been wondering the exact same thing all day since I heard the news.

If I were to know that I have 3 months left on this earth, I would want to spend all of it with my wife and the rest of my family. I don't think that's dying in mediocrity.

Some people like the struggle. There's an entire industry built off of making money from this human drive in called the Video Game industry after all. Think about all of the games which get lambasted for being too easy, hell just look at the release of Classic WoW where plenty of people are still devoting time to a 15 year old game largely because it required a lot of work to succeed in.

Some people bury themselves in their job, some people bury themselves in work, some people in video games, it's ultimately based on the same drive to achieve something based on a struggle.

The scuttlebutt has been that Hurd has been suffering from a serious illness for quite some time -- at least a year and a half. Some have claimed it was a blood-related illness. (Leukemia?) Oracle has been keeping a clamp down on the subject though to try to maintain confidence in its leadership.


Everybody can die out of the blue, even in a matter of days.

My dad did : he died out of the blue of acute leukemia, in a matter of days, at 63 yrs.

edit: and, he was not a CEO, far from it.

Indeed. Detection for some conditions is very late,and once detected, not many treatment options exist.

Pancreatic cancer took my father's life at 73. Not much warning and not influenced by how much or little he worked.

Thanks for sharing. I’m sorry for your loss.

I've had a couple of pretty good bosses over the years. I'm not sure what it says about me but I'm about 50:50 for managers versus developers among the group of people I'd list as mentors.

The good ones either could do, or at least verbalize how they wished their bosses would do, some pretty effective delegation by... well... leading.

There are ways to communicate the overall picture and the goals of a project so that people generally know what is expected of them, and feel empowered to go and tackle individual problems that lie in the way. Even if they don't act, it's no surprise to them when their performance review is bad because they knew what everyone was doing and they chose not to participate.

Nobody is being micromanaged, nobody is working on 'pointless' stuff. Everybody can and most people do step up.

There's a weird bit of human psychology that can be used cynically (as by con men and serial killers), but it doesn't have to be: If you trust people, they are inclined to trust you. I think that may be part of the dynamic that goes on in these situations. Here's my dream, I'm sharing it with you, let's go do it.

I wonder if we should be focusing a lot harder on communication skills and leadership training. Because if you can wind up that toy and walk away from it, do you really need to be working 70 hours a week? Or do you have people for that?

You are right, its definitely a leadership issue, if you have really hired the right lieutenants and 100% trust them, you don't need to be pulling 70 hr weeks. Unfortunately, most "leaders" never allow that, they love to get involved in every fire - big or small, and I feel, they derive their sense of self-worth from it.

You know the romantic arc in some comedies and many action movies? The people in a stressful situation form a bond. At the beginning they hated each other. At the end they were living happily ever after.

It's not just a movie trope, it's a human cliche. Pour enough oxytocin onto a human brain and you'll believe anybody is your bestie. Survival creates a bond.

These guys create emergencies and then become emotionally invested in the heroes who show up and fix the problem. If they do that repeatedly, the bond is stronger. Infuriatingly, that often holds for people fixing the same problem over and over. They want to keep these 'friends' around and ignore everyone else.

They have no emotional bond for most of the people who would let them go home after 40 or 50 hours.

I've definitely seen that, it morphs into a bro-code of sorts. Interestingly, most of corporate America borrows its parlance from the military ( pick your battles, rally the troops..) Someone, thought up this psycho-babble to make corporate jobs sound and mean as important as being at war.

In war you're brother or enemy

This seems a short-sighted and judgmental view on someone I assume you do not know well personally. What if he loved what he did ? What if he did manage to spend quality time with his loved ones (We all wish we had more)? What if he hated vacations and itched to get back to the action at work? To each his own.

I don’t believe these guys do it just for the money. They probably really like it and also have a talent for it. Same for running for political office. You have to like it and also be good at it. Otherwise I don’t think you can get to that level.

At a certain point, at the very highest levels of 'work', work becomes more of a game when you don't need to worry about making the mortgage payment or the kids' college tuition bill. This is very true for CEOs, hedgies and many types of jobs that require a high level of skill.

Sculpting a company, like sculpting out of clay, or creating a perfectly balanced 4 or 6 or 8 or 12 cylinder enging can be a "work of art". Creating a a system, and then watching it run, and tuning and adjusting and tinkering and improving (given that it is built on the most unreliable or unspecifiable of parts: humans), could be a joy in itself.

The sheer joy of creation and maintenance. Or, with the mental model of the organization as a developing child, an unruly yet talented child full of promise - raising it up to reach it's peak potential, like an athlete's father, like Tiger Wood's father, might do.

That sounds like a legitimate life work, and a hobby, and an interest, to me.

EDIT: The care-and-feeding of some of my long-running simulations, be they agent-based computational economics, or alife, give me a lot of joy, even after 20 years of watching them and nurturing them and tuning their parameters. (The results are can be quite surprising! I don't understand people who golf or fish, or that retire to do whatever retired people do, but starting companies or herding populations of computer programs is something I could imagine doing until I die.)

I know a family where the father did die of a heart attack in his 50s, definitely due to work pressure, and they made a lot more than average money. That is in California, USA.. he and his wife were first-generation immigrants.. big house, not an ordinary house.. plus all that goes with that.. to be clearer.. no actually, two families.. now that I think of it..

As difficult as it is for me to understand, some people enjoy working the same way other people would enjoy not having to work.

This is true on some level, but I can see things from his perspective too. You're getting to work with smart, talented, experienced people, making big decisions that have ramifications in a world-wide industry, mentoring and conversing with juniors, and feeling the gratitude of customers whose lives you've made better. And maybe some of it just the sheer joy of winning. Who knows?

Here I am on a Friday night, casually hanging out on my laptop - between Reddit and Hacker News and watching work tech talks and looking at GitHub issues. A new bug came in. I know several companies depend on me to fix it. It's not urgent, but I'm taking a look at it. I guess it feels good to be useful to other people (looking at the bug), and to feel like part of something bigger than you (the tech talks).

I had a very sweet boss who told me I'll be a CIO one day and I always told her I don't want to do that. Stress yourself to death for extra money? Why? Maybe if you're money or power hungry, but I'm pretty happy living a middle class comfortable life.

When I read your comment, this article was the first thing that came to mind: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-later-than-you-think-j-r-...

HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20928570

I didn't know who he was or anything, but I read the article.

I didn't notice anything about being a workaholic, so at the end of it I have to assume he worked as hard at his job as any other CEO? So are you just saying that CEOs work too hard, too many hours? I'm not disagreeing necessarily I would just like to know how many hours and how hard it is exactly because I couldn't find it in the article?

Watching a 70 year old John Chambers pitching his new $230mm+ funded cloud business the other day... had the same question/thought.

This is not a comment on Hurd. However, I am not always sure about “working hard”. There are many reasons why c-level people stay at work for long hours and not necessarily because they are “working hard”. How many times have we witnessed CEOs not owning up when things go wrong? I did not know is a common excuse.

Conversely, being at work twice as many hours won't get you twice as much work; and even if you actually work twice as much you probably won't even know twice as much.

...And in an organization with thousands of people there's more knowledge than even a hundred people can fully absorb. So I don't think this particular criticism is fair.

Work can be a great source of joy and self-realization. I always feel sorry for people who hate their jobs and do it only to pay the bills. Once you find your true calling, sometimes it is hard to wait for Monday on weekends because you really want to get back to your job.

You are making a lot of assumptions. Maybe he saw himself as creative, and believed he was building important things? Maybe he was a great family man? Maybe his death had nothing to do with overwork? Maybe he did stop caring about money at 40, and continued for other reasons?

Definitely not a great family man, he was terminated from HP for bad behavior with a Playboy model turned contractor.

Some might say it's the same drive that makes one pursue becoming a CEO in the first place that makes one incapable of giving it up. The whole industriousness characteristic of the five-factor model that men in particular have evolved to take, if you're into that.

People all over the world are mentioning his name right now, discussing his life and achievements, after his death. For many people lasting notoriety and posterity is a very large motivating factor behind their pursuits. If this is true of Hurd, then he has succeeded.

You nailed one thing there about what you are working towards. If it's about saving lives, the betterment of humankind, absolutely that is a selfless cause. But working as a corporate shill, I agree, what are you really gaining?

I agree with the sentiment and also feel like working too hard is a bad idea (in large part for the reasons you’ve outlined), but also agree that it’s not clear if this was the cause without more information.

> I feel really bad for Hurd and his family

His family yes. Hurd though is not around anymore.

> Why work that hard? It's not hard if you enjoy it. I work just about every day. I enjoy what I do and being at the office. Not every single thing but very generally most things and most days. Not working feels strange to me. Would I work less if I had more money? The thought of that scares me. I enjoy working. Part of the reason is the positive feedback of making money but part of it has nothing to do with that. After all people play games on the computer. They are addicted to that and they in most cases don't get any money at all. Well for some of us work is play. And you make money from that. It's very enjoyable vs. being at a vacation home (I have one and have for a long time).

> The job is so demanding and so hard it seems like Mark worked himself to death, literally.

Well as others have pointed out that is probably not what has happened. Now could an illness been exacerbated by lack of rest and focusing only on work? Sure. Maybe not enough sleep or denying some basic thing that is needed. But not because you didn't take time off to relax and smell the roses. He died very quickly. Could he have ignored some symptoms? Sure but maybe not. Maybe it just happened.

> He probably could have retired happy and rich at like 40 years old...

You seem to be tying everything to making money and of course assuming that someone having enough money to not work is going to be happy. Not all of us are like that as my comment is suggesting and as others have said.

> I understand when an artist or someone creative gives their life to their work: it's an obsession that is personal.

Why? What makes what an artist does that is creative make it different than someone in business, entertainment or anything else? Business is an art and enjoyment. Maybe not to you but certainly to many people (me included).

> But giving your life to Oracle

Implies that some companies might be worth 'giving your life to' or some causes. Not the case. Nothing is worth (even your example of art) giving your life to. Of course you can think that some social cause is worth 'giving your life' but that means you are also doing the wrong thing to your family if you have one. They will maybe suffer when you are not there.

> Even the day to day workers over there get to go home and see their families every night. At the C-level, you basically live in a private jet and never see your family... Very sad.

Sad to you. Maybe they like it that way?

Who are you to criticise someone else’s choices and what they enjoy? You do what you enjoy. Let them do what they enjoy.

I feel like this line of thinking cannot be applied to all things people enjoy.

These kinds of people see their careers the same way someone creative gives their life for that you mention.

It’s ambition. If you don’t have it, you won’t get it.

Please note that all the luxuries he sacrificed for the employees who depended upon this company.

Not to mention they are just hoarding wealth instead of letting other people earn.

Obviously this is very sad news and I wish all the best & my condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

I'm not very familiar with how Oracle is run, but it surprised me to see "co-CEO". I always assumed this wasn't a great way to run a company, and yet here is a major exception.

Can someone enlighten me as to why Oracle chooses to have co-CEOs? Is it something specific to their business?

RIM (Blackberry) was kind of infamous for it.

...the co-CEO structure is very unusual, although some high-profile technology companies, including Motorola and Wipro, in addition to RIM, have adopted it. “Two CEOs with complementary skills and knowledge could presumably lead a firm better (compared with single CEO) and deliver better performance,” she added. “In addition, it might be helpful in retaining good CEO-material employees and avoid having them leave the firm and take their valuable knowledge with them elsewhere, especially if there was an exodus.”

However, Danielova adds, there are probably many more drawbacks to such a structure.


I can't speak to why they have a co-CEO, but I'd just remind you that Oracle is a pretty exceptional company (using "exceptional" in the sense of "not like everyone else" and not in the sense of an endorsement).

Its windy at the top of a company, a lot of pressure and constant need to make good decisions, some companies chose to have two people that complement each other, the sum of it is larger than its parts.

Look, it doesn't take a genius to know that any organization thrives when it has two leaders. Go ahead, name a country that doesn't have two presidents. A boat that sets sail without two captains. Where would Catholicism be without the popes?

With this mentality, we wouldn’t have had women in positions of power or even women voters. Same for people of color etc. I Personally _love_ that some companies, people and countries are bold enough to experiment with unorthodox approaches, because sometimes those ideas work and the rest of us benefit from the learnings.

You kid, I know, but it was seriously proposed for the U.S. government in the mid-1800s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Disquisition_on_Government

Eswatini is a diarchy where the King co-rules alongside his mother. A viable model for corporate America perhaps?

Take my upvote. The Office (S06E03).

I can venture a guess: this is so that Larry Ellison can retain control of the company. He is Chairman & CTO, but since the CEOs are “Half CEOs” he is also virtual CEO. I’d add that this is a good thing. Larry is an amazing visionary, who wrote Oracle Parallel Server during the early days and is also good at marketing. Larry/Oracle sucks at user experience so their client products are terrible. A weird thing about Larry is that he invented cloud computing in the 90’s (he called it network computing) and yet Oracle is late to the cloud party.

Hurd dealt with the sales force while Catz focused on the financial side of it. Larry runs engineering.

They weren't co-CEOs apparently[1]. They just had different areas of authority within the company.

1. https://www.cnbc.com/2014/09/18/oracle-ceo-larry-ellison-ste...

It's not extremely common, but it does happen occasionally. It is a very thoroughly discussed topic though.


Salesforce did it recently. It's about division of labor. https://fortune.com/2018/08/07/salesforce-keith-block-co-ceo...

“I am going to be focusing on, No. 1, the products, the technology—as well as the culture,” says Benioff, “and Keith is very much focused on the operations and distribution functions of the company. We feel it’s going to naturally align with both of our strengths.”

Product, Marketing, Vision, Culture -- vs -- Sales, Support, Services (Business)

It basically reverts back to what start-ups would segment out as Business v. Technical co-founders.

> focused on the operations and distribution functions of the company

At the risk of sounding dumb, isn't that what the COO is for?

I think it’s primarily a public acknowledgment that they’re as important, maybe even more important, for such a mature company. The kinds of people who qualify, are the kinds of people who dream of being a CEO, and don’t want to roll up to someone else. They would likely go somewhere they could easily be CEO without the bump.

Aren't VP's supposed to satisfy that division of labor?

Actually, for years, Oracle had only 1 CEO (Larry). The CO-CEO thing happened in 2014 when Larry stepped down as CEO.

Larry has been quoted as saying in this year's Oracle Openworld conference - “I believe in a dual-CEO structure. The normal case would be dual CEO here for obvious reasons. That it’s good to have capacity and good to have specialization. And then, God forbid, if something untoward should happen, you have capacity; you are not incapacitated.” [1]

1 - https://techcrunch.com/2019/10/18/former-oracle-co-ceo-mark-...

Titles can be worth a lot to employees, but employers get to provide them for free. I think helps answer many questions:

1. Why do most of the programmers at my job have a title of Senior Engineer or better?

2. Why does Goldman Sachs have thousands of Vice Presidents?

3. Why does Oracle have two CEOs?

The only thing that the employer has to worry about is a perception of title inflation, but there’s a tragedy of the commons problem. This can be combated by creating higher-end titles. I wonder when we’ll see a company with a CCEOO.

After HP fired Hurd Oracle/Larry Ellison hired him. A bit later Larry Ellison gave up his role as CEO but staying President of the Board and CTO and the CEO job was split between Safra Catz (financial side) and Mark Hurd (sales, marketing) and the three of them worked together splitting the responsibilities.

Mark Hurd is an amazing person both professionally and personally. He did and does for so many. This is a tragic loss for his family and friends. Mark is a husband, father, brother, and best friend to many. He has selflessly donated millions to great causes. A man’s life has come to an end far too early Than it should. When making comments, think of those who are hurting, in shock and grieving. RIP #markhurd

Hurd had taken a medical leave of absence earlier this year and it's likely that Oracle was prepared for this (1)

Safra Catz, the other co-CEO, will run Oracle in the meantime. Ellison intends to appoint a new co-CEO in the near future(2)

(1) https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/09/12/oracle-co-ceo-mark-hu...

(2) https://techcrunch.com/2019/10/18/former-oracle-co-ceo-mark-...

It seems that Oracle was prepared to have two co-CEOs at the same time. When an emergency like this happens, the other co-CEO can take over any any time.

That's really sad. I've always imagined myself dying in my 80s or 90s after seeing grandchildren become adults. At the age of 62, that cuts all of that out...

I'd like to live a long time, but my dad is in the process of dying right now (he's 86) and it SUCKS. One of my older brothers, on the other hand, dropped dead at 59 from a "widowmaker" heart attack. I think I'd like something like the latter, but a little closer to the former age. What I can say for sure is that in my limited experience, dying of old age is a tedious, undignified, painful affair.

Bummer. I was at HP when he was CEO (and subsequently forced out). He was an inspiring, long-term thinker.

Was he? I arrived at HP shortly before he left, via an acquisition. I suppose he okayed the purchase, which suggests some amount of forward-looking thought, but I also heard that he had defunded HP Labs to some extent, and that he was more into cost control than investing in new technology.

That's what I heard. I interned there shortly after he'd left for oracle.

He wasn't well liked in my department (Superdome!). IT and Ops had been completely outsourced which wasn't particularly appreciated.

Here is the correct link: https://markhurd.com/announcement/

The link is missing an 'n' in "announcement". The link as is does work after a minute, though.

Good message from Larry Ellison.

404 showing now.

I knew he'd taken time up for a health problem, but I sure hadn't seen this coming.


>Hurd, one of the company’s two CEOs, is struggling with an illness that has occasionally taken him in and out of the public eye for more than a year, according to several people with knowledge of the matter. Management’s rationale for staying silent until now centered at least in part on the depth of Oracle’s leadership bench, said the people, who requested anonymity discussing an issue the company considers private.Hurd, 62, shares the CEO title with Safra Catz, 57, a well-regarded 20-year company veteran, who previously served as finance chief and still oversees Oracle’s accounting, operations, legal and corporate development.

When a man dedicates his life to this type of job, both he and his family know,that it is a way of life. Don't think that at this point Mark was,so much after the money, a's he was brilliant, what good does it do if you live to be 99 and you have survived cancer, lost your mind, bc of Alzheimer, swallow a lot of pills to keep yourself going, have a dull, monotonous,existence, is that so much fun and attainable. For Whom The Bell Tolls, noone can look around corners, what I know of Mark, he did what he did with passion, intensity and conviction. Although I was really sad to hear about it, he seems to have lived a fulfilled life.

Mark was not liked by all at Teradata nor NCR either, at times I complained, but really looking at the big picture, there was nothing else that would have worked. When iconoclast make unpopular decisions the masses don't like it. The vision and dedication, plus simplification of complex ideas, this is so attractive, there are not that many of those around globally with the chuzpah and pioneer spirit that is what needs to be celebrated and admired. Every man has fault and makes mistakes, who is free of that, if anyone is please I want to hear from you in a New York minute. RIP Mark

I'm baffled by the focus of comments here, people sitting back and making judgements about another's life decisions. Refreshing that there isn't name calling and vitriol. I personally would not want to live the kind of high pressure work life of Mr. Hurd. For me that would be hell. Each person is responsible for their decisions, finding satisfaction in life. By my own best lights the key questions are, "Did s/he love? Were they loved in return? Did they add to greater good of the world around them?" Wielding power over others for personal gain, exploitation, that's where I'm more comfortable saying that a person's choices were harmful to self and others. Narcissism. I'm getting a big cipher here and other articles about his passing. I'm his age, so that adds another dimension to my regard here.

Life is full of choices, and Mark made his choice so who am I to criticize. I closed my laptop and drove out of SV at 42, leaving behind a CFO job at a large enterprise software company with lots of career upside. My choice was predicated on the recognition that the price one pays for this type of career success was not worth it, to me. But my values are not your values, so the important thing is to make a thoughtful, informed decision about how one wants to spend their short time here.

I knew Mark personally. We played tennis together in High School. My mother made dinner for him many times. All I can say is, "You can't judge a book by it's cover"

Worked for the company for a Long stint. Mark’s leadership style is hmm controversial at best and many may not agree. But to die so young while at the peak is always a sad thing to anyone

62 is quite young :(

> Hurd settled with Fisher, who had once modeled for Playboy magazine, for undisclosed terms.

The modeling for Playboy seems like a very gratuitous detail to include and doesn't seem to serve any purpose for the story.

His relationship with Fisher was not inconsequential: https://www.businessinsider.com/mark-hurd-jodie-fisher-hp-20...

Agreed, but her modeling for Playboy had no part in making the relationship consequential. It is a gratuitous detail.

It has been alleged that Hurd hired her in large part for prurient purposes.

She posed for Playboy; Hurd was involved in her hiring for "events" and then immediately commences an irregular relationship with her, including her being paid for work at places where there is no HP event but Hurd happens to be.

It makes it look a lot more deliberate, than if, say, she had a career as an event presenter and then some time after hiring a sexual relationship commenced.

>It has been alleged that Hurd hired her in large part for prurient purposes. She posed for Playboy;

This seems to imply that hiring a woman who has posed for Playboy has a higher chance of being because of prurient purposes. This seems discriminatory.

Discriminatory in what way?

It definitely has a higher chance of being for prurient purposes if she first came to his attention for her nude modeling! Let's be realistic here.

Why not? If modelling was her thing, a Playboy appearance is a major accomplishment.

Getting into Playboy these days means that the model is able to find a sponsor that pays her appearance in the magazine. It is an achievement, but of a completely different kind than most people would have thought. Source: I am a photographer, know some of their models and they told me.

Can you explain further? Is the sponsor someone personally interested in the model’s career or is it a company that she is endorsing? What is the typical fee for this?

That was a long time ago, when Playboy was relevant and a stepping stone to Baywatch, MTV or something along those lines. Can you even recall anyone who's been a cover model in the last 15 years? Or has graduated from Playboy modeling to something bigger and better?

It's mainstream news outlet.

What were you expecting, exactly? And how do your expectations correspond to the reporting quality & character of said news outlet?

Cause it's easy to get the estimate of a man by the woman they date/marry.

That comment is incredibly demeaning to women

I actually can't tell who's being sarcastic here. I think that in general, if an executive has an afair with a model, that speaks to their personality or character, as choosing to date another engineer speaks to mine. If it appears mercenary, well, that seems like an expected quality in the CEO of Oracle.

I aspire to conduct myself so that whenever I die I will be remembered as something more altruistic, or at least ethical than a corporate raider, or a politician who tried to sleep with his interns, etc.

> > Cause it's easy to get the estimate of a man by the woman they date/marry.

> Cause it's easy to get the estimate of a person by the people they date/marry.

I think the second one is true. Not as true as some things. But if it is true then the first is true, since the second is more universal.

> Many people believe they can estimate a person by the people the person dates/marries.

It's possible Hurd believed this. Whether he thought he was moving the needle in his favor by any of his actions is probably unknowable.

I see why you read the comment the way you did, and I suggest there is a different reading.

Are you sure? I read that as being incredibly demeaning to men.


I love HN for the fact that tired, low effort, comments like this are far less common.


I'd say he single handedly got HP in it's current non-functional state.

He gutted R&D, slashed important internal departments, tried to outsource everything, etc.

And with all of this, he ended up spending a billion dollars on palm, which was basically a complete waste of money. But hey, they were trendy at the time so investors loved it! (The poor palm employees that basically got shit canned).

Now, HP is a shell of it's former self and collapsing under it's own weight. They don't have the people to innovate, they are actively downsizing (my current employer is hiring a lot of their talent) and all the while they are trying to bridge gaps using underpaid contractors (I got a job offer in linked-in for them at $40k... lol! That was less than I earned there as an intern!)

The only people that praise hurd are those that didn't see the absolute destruction he caused to moral. But hey, he turned profits for a few years, so he must be amazing, right?

I was there around the same time; I was also involved peripherally with Superdome - saw Carly's reign and left during Hurd's. IMO he was a breath of fresh air in contrast to Carly's whatever-that-was, you are right that he turns out to have fundamentally gutted HP R&D. It was sad to see.

I think he rescued what was salvageable from the Carly Fiorina disaster. Absurd that she could be seen as a successful person. I think if he hadn't cut costs massively there would be no HP. His salary at the time is indefensible, but so are the salaries of most of the S&P 500.

Frankly, the board firing Hurd was just dumb American sexual hypocrisy (both Hurd and the board), burnt billions in value and nearly tanked the company because he was banging someone on the company dime. I'll never understand why he didn't just pay his mistress with his own $30M salary. Perceived deniability? It's bizarre.

And then Apotheker really trashed HP. Meg W, as much as I disagree with her politics, somehow got HP back to being competitive.

HPE has good server and HPC/GPU products, even if the website sucks balls, and competes hard with Dell, IBM etc.


Try to be more respectful. We're talking about a human being who died.

Condolences to Mr. Hurd's loved ones.

But I think there is actually a good point behind a possibly tasteless joke. If you are overly litigious in life, or take up certain aggressive business practices, maybe the thought of death is humbling and can teach us all to relax and be kinder. I think we all know our share of living people who could use this advice.

I have found the below quote to be helpful in this regard.

“When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if we must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.”

I burst into tears upon reading this comment. Thank you.

Memento mori

The article says he was a brilliant leader, anyone know what he did to be a brilliant leader specifically?

Hurd ran sales at oracle, and many people can attest to the brilliant skill of oracle at sales, even if the underlying product wasn't as good as their competitors.

Hurd was already a pretty high-profile CEO before joining Oracle. Oracle was already pretty well-entrenched long before Hurd joined the company. Hurd's primary skill, IMHO, was in managing the public market.

I see his life as a warning more than anything else. A person spending his entire adult life working non-stop, climbing the corporate ladder, and then to die so young...

It wasn't all work. Look into why he was ushered out as HP CEO.

Philosophically speaking, poof in an instant all those things that he accomplished didn’t matter when he died. He is at the same place as any random joe who died at his hospital.

Alexander the Great found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, "I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave."

Don't be so cynical.

That's one philosophy a person can have.

Guys it’s not about the CEO who spent whole time in the private jet. It’s about 1000s if families who depended on this company to bring the food on the table Profitability is the key He sacrificed for those employees his personal time.

lol mark hurd took away all of our bonuses and commissions at oracle

when i worked at NCR beginning during late 1989, mark hurd led a point-of-sale (POS) division effort which deprived me personally of intellectual property now worth approximately $30MM/day to the company in credit card settlement transactions. what's even worse is how they sued others e.g. verifone for vast sums, using their fabricated claim to stolen property. like his crooked & overpaid "management" buddies, mark was rewarded for what he could get away with (havoc), not what he actually created. mark's bad karma has finally caught up with him and i hope that he rots in hell!

I had worked for the company for an extensive period and many in the company would not fall in love with the man due to his ehmmmm leadership style. But to die so young and at the peak is very sad to happen to anyone. God bless his soul

Tuesday - Amazon announces it is completely off of Oracle databases

Thursday - Amazon announces support for RDS on VmWare

Friday - Oracle announces its Co-CEO has died

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