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Oracle Had Plenty Of Time To Prepare For Hurd's Absence, Partners And Insiders Say

The co-CEO’s illness has been an open secret for months, and Oracle's senior leadership, including close friend Larry Ellison, almost certainly have prepared a transition plan that must focus on big-picture guidance of a massive sales organization

Serious health problems affecting Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd have been an open secret in Silicon Valley for many months, even as they have not once been reported publicly.

Hurd had visibly lost weight as of late, his typically booming voice had become shakier, and he began wearing a toupee, several Oracle partners noticed at various events, including a sales kickoff this past July for which Hurd recorded a video, rather than appear in person.

"He looked horrible," one partner observed immediately after the sales confab, amazed that Oracle did not make any statement about Hurd's health at the time.

Before that, at the Oracle Media Day event in early May, where Hurd always meets international reporters who cover his company, he offered his traditional analysis of the market and Oracle's business by phone.

[Related: Mark Hurd's 10 Most Provocative Statements At Oracle Media Day]

Neither Oracle nor Hurd have publicly revealed his diagnosis.

But Hurd, celebrated for a tremendous work ethic and gusto for his job running one of the world's largest technology companies, pressed on, despite whatever physical struggles he endured. He finally took a medical leave a week before the Oracle OpenWorld mega-conference, where he was slated to headline a major keynote next week and is typically omnipresent.

The length of time during which Hurd's illness was known to him and his peers means it's a near certainty that Oracle Chairman and CTO Larry Ellison, and co-CEO Safra Catz, have planned for the day Hurd had to step away.

"This is not news to them," a former colleague of Hurd's at Oracle told CRN. "They have known about Mark's health and probably have already figured out the strategy."

Knowing his former boss, that person said, it's more than likely Hurd was actively involved in that process.

"He's a consummate professional. I'll bet anything he and Larry have sat down with Safra and have thought through this whole thing," he said.

Oracle has yet to disclose any plans to replace Hurd for the near or, if necessary, long term.

Where they face a significant challenge in filling the void left by Hurd's departure is in the sales org, where the co-CEO was the driver behind Oracle's massive go-to-market apparatus and strategy, he said.

The CEO for a solution provider that partners with Oracle, who did not want to be identified, told CRN that running Oracle’s sales force is a monumental challenge.

"You couldn’t pay me enough to take that job," the CEO said of Hurd's now-vacant position. "It is a culture that is hard to embrace."

The Oracle insider said because Hurd's health problems weren't a secret internally, "this has all been thought through."

But that dynamic raises the question of why shareholders weren't informed earlier of Hurd's illness, and what the fiduciary responsibilities are of Oracle's board and senior management team.

Oracle did not immediately comment to CRN when asked.

The partner who observed Hurd's worsening condition at the sales kickoff said the lack of public disclosure was a topic of conversation within Oracle's channel community.

"As Oracle’s publicly traded, I’m surprised it hasn’t come out in actual news yet," he told CRN back in July. "When Steve Jobs had cancer, it was all over the news. I’m impressed people are being judicious and keeping it off the press."

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