Partners Mourn Passing Of ‘Channel Catalyst’ Mark Hurd

‘He was a smart guy who got the channel,’ says Sam Haffar, executive chairman and CEO of Computex Technology Solutions. ‘He looked at the different routes to the market, saw the value the channel brought to the table, and he embraced it.’

Solution providers remembered Oracle co-CEO and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd as a channel catalyst who respected the value and sales muscle of the partner ecosystem.

“Mark was a catalyst for our business,” said Sam Haffar, executive chairman and CEO of Computex Technology Solutions, Houston Texas, No. 117 on the CRN 2019 Solution Provider 500. “He did CIO customer roundtables with us, was always available and accessible. He was just an amazing executive who supported the channel. This is a very sad and tragic day for the industry. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”

RELATED: [Oracle Co-CEO Mark Hurd Dies At 62]

Sponsored post

Hewlett Packard partners say that when Hurd - who once told CRN that leveraging the channel was just “good business” - took the CEO post from Carly Fiorina in 2005 the go-to-market channel sales charge improved dramatically.

“It was night and day,” recalled Haffer, noting that channel sales under Hurd grew at a robust rate. “When he took over, he fixed all the problems in the channel. He was a smart guy who got the channel. He looked at the different routes to the market, saw the value the channel brought to the table, and he embraced it.”

Hurd’s no-nonsense channel roundtable sessions with Computex helped close significant deals, said Haffar. “Customers appreciated hearing it directly from the CEO,” he said.

When Haffar was dropping his son off last year for his freshman year at Baylor University, he sent Hurd -- who attended Baylor on a tennis scholarship and was a regent at the Waco, Texas school -- an email after seeing Hurd’s name on the Hurd Tennis Center.

“Within hours I got an email back wishing my son the best at Baylor,” said Haffar. “This is just heartbreaking. Of all the executives that impacted my business over the last 30 years, he was one of the ones at the top of the list. We had healthy growth under the tutelage of Mark Hurd.”

Hurd, 62, passed away Friday just one month after taking a leave of absence from Oracle for health-related reasons. Hurd was seen by many solution providers as a friend to the channel during his tenures as CEO of Hewlett Packard from 2005 to 2010 and at Oracle where he became president in 2010 and Co-CEO of in September 2014.

Hurd joined Oracle after he had resigned from HP following a sexual harassment investigation at that company, in which Hurd was found in violation of HP's Standards of Business Conduct, though not its sexual harassment policy. Before his role at Hewlett-Packard, Hurd was CEO at National Cash Register Corp. (NCR).

Oracle Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison said in a statement that he will miss Hurd’s kindness and sense of humor. “Mark was my close and irreplaceable friend, and trusted colleague,” said Ellison. “Oracle has lost a brilliant and beloved leader who personally touched the lives of so many of us during his decade at Oracle. All of us will miss Mark’s keen mind and rare ability to analyze, simplify and solve problems quickly. Some of us will miss his friendship and mentorship...Mark leaves his beloved wife Paula, two wonderful daughters who were the joy of his life, and his much larger extended family here at Oracle who came to love him.”

HPE CEO Antonio Neri said in a post on Twitter that Hurd “was a talented leader who helped see HP through a transformative time in the company’s history. Mark will be remembered as one of the great minds of Silicon Valley & a good friend to many. He will be missed. I offer my deepest condolences to his family & loved ones.”

CRN reached out to HP but had not heard back at press time.

Another tech luminary, founder and co-CEO Marc Benioff said on Twitter that he was sad to hear of Hurd’s passing.

“I’m so sad to hear of the passing of Mark Hurd CEO of Oracle. He was always very kind to me & I always enjoyed seeing him at the Warriors at Oracle Arena. All of my thoughts & prayers are with his family & employees of Oracle. May the One who brings peace bring peace to All,” Benioff said in a tweet.

A Believer In The Channel Ecosystem

Edward Roske, CEO of interRel, a large Oracle reseller based in Arlington, Texas, said Hurd saw the value of the indirect sales model and will be missed.

“Mark definitely saw the value in partners and the channel,” said Roske. “He was behind a recent push to have the channel drive more [Oracle] license revenue, which not everyone internal to Oracle was happy about. Mark believed in an ecosystem of which the channel was a key part. Some others believed that Oracle should go it alone, but Mark definitely believed in the value of a strong partner network.”

Roske said Hurd was “intelligent, forward-looking and great at both big-picture vision” and operational details. “I will always treasure the conversation we had on artificial intelligence and how much of a global disruptor it is going to be,” said Roske.

Roske said the big question for Oracle now is who will become the next Co-CEO with Safra Catz. “Safra doesn’t want to run the whole company, and I don’t see a natural successor inside Oracle now that Thomas Kurian is gone,” he said. “I expect they’ll go outside.”

Majdi Daher, CEO of Denali Advanced Integration, Redmond, Washington, No. 69 on the 2019 CRN SP500, said he was boarding a plane to Los Angeles when he got the news that Hurd had passed away and he put his hands to his head and wept. Then he sent a text message to a group of partners and former Hewlett Packard executives that read: “We lost a great leader today. Rest in Peace Mark. I love you guys.”

“What a sad day,” said Daher, whose Hewlett Packard business soared under Hurd’s leadership. “He was one of the best leaders I ever met: articulate, charismatic, brave, a change agent and motivator. I learned so much from him. He taught me how to be a leader by both encouraging and inspiring people. He taught me how to build great teams by always pushing and motivating at the same time.”

Daher recalled getting calls at the end of the quarter from Hurd asking about $200,000 deals. “I was shocked at that,” said Daher. “He was so detail-oriented that he knew the names of customers and the deal sizes. I made sure I closed those deals. I didn’t want him to be disappointed, and I didn’t want him to call and ask me why we didn’t close a deal.”

Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, which is part of ACP CreativIT, said he had to pull his car over to the side of the road after learning that Hurd had passed away.

“I was shocked and saddened by the loss,” said Chernick, who was a member of the Hewlett Packard partner advisory council that worked closely with Hurd. “It struck a chord with me, I really liked and respected Mark. He treated all of the partners with dignity and respect and made his people accountable. He helped grow the channel business.”

Chernick said Hurd surrounded himself with some of the top talent in the channel business. “That was an era of some of the best HP executives that I became friends with even to this day,” he said. “I’m thankful for that. I learned a lot from Mark.”

Chernick, a member of the board of directors of the Green Bay Packers, said he still cherishes a photograph of a smiling Hurd holding up a Packer jersey with the number one on it. “I had the jersey custom made for him with his name on it and told him that when he came to Green Bay he had a jersey to wear,” said Chernick.

Even after Hurd left Hewlett Packard he would respond to his emails, said Chernick. “I am so sorry he passed away,” said Chernick. “I was praying he could beat it. He was an outstanding businessman and friend to the channel.”

A Maniacal Numbers Guy

ACPCreativIT CEO Scott Dunsire, who was vice president and general manager of Hewlett Packard’s lucrative printing business during Hurd’s tenure, said Hurd not only talked the channel talk but walked the walk.

“Mark was very visible in the channel and supportive of partners,” said Dunsire. “A lot of CEOs talk the channel game but don’t spend the time that he did meeting with partners – even smaller partners – on a regular basis.”

Dunsire remembered Hurd as a “maniacal numbers guy” who drilled deeply down into every nook and cranny of the channel. “Mark was a brilliant operations executive,” said Dunsire. “He understood everything about how products move through the channel. Printing was a big profit driver and Mark knew all the numbers from inventory turns, to sell through data and how much we were spending on marketing. He held us and the partners accountable.”

Hurd made the Hewlett Packard top executive team much stronger because “no one wanted to get in front of Mark and not have the answers,” said Dunsire. “He was tough on the team, but all the executives learned a heckuva lot more under his leadership than previous leaders.”

Dunsire said he was on a string of text message that a number of partners sent after learning of Hurd’s death. “The messages were all about how Mark changed the channel game,” he said. “You didn’t have to be a humongous partner for Mark to engage. We had a number of smaller and midsized partners that had a seat at the table with a personal relationship with Mark.”

Kevin Gilroy, who worked as a channel chief under Hurd at HP and is now founder and principal of Gilroy Assocaites, a go-to-market consulting company, said Hurd was a “professional sales guy with a comptroller and auditor’s attitude.”

“Mark was a very analytical guy – everything by the numbers – who was supportive of the channel as long as the economics made sense,” said Gilroy. “He was highly, highly financially driven for someone that had a sales background.”

Gilroy said every Hewlett Packard executive knew that they better be prepared for quarterly reviews. “Mark knew every number, and if you weren’t prepared he asked you to leave and come back when you were,” said Gilroy. “He was like an auditor questioning you. He was kind of edgy. You had better be prepared. He made you better than you were because of that.”

Gilroy recalls doing a quarterly review with Hurd walking around the boardroom table, looking over his shoulder, and asking pointed questions on discount levels, special pricing gamesmanship, market development funds. “One of the things he wanted to talk about was where the channel was really adding value and where there was some profit leakage,” said Gilroy. “He was on that like a dog on a bone. He didn’t mind paying for value, but he didn’t want non-value costs. He didn’t like waste. He knew he was in the business of printers and PCs. It was a low margin, high velocity business and he understood that.”

Tom LaRocca, who worked for 11 years as a channel chief for Hurd with both Oracle and Hewlett Packard, said partners “loved him because he knew the value of the partners and the channel model.”

“Mark knew where partners fit into the go-to-market strategy and he wanted to make sure they were successful and contributed to the overall growth of both Oracle and Hewlett Packard,” said LaRocca, who is now principal of Executive Channel Consulting, a Houston, Texas consultant that is working with private equity company Kingfish Capital on channel investments. “Partners liked meeting with Mark because they knew they would get a straight story. They knew if they asked a question, they would get an honest answer.”

LaRocca said Hurd had an uncanny sense of numbers with a knowledge of every part of the company’s profit and loss statement. “He knew your P&L better than you did, no matter where you worked in the company,” said LaRocca. “Mark was the same guy at both companies. He was a straight shooter.”

LaRocca said Hurd was always accessible and insisted on partner meetings in every city. Hurd made sure he met with disgruntled partners so he could hear the bad and the good. “Mark wanted to understand the issues from every perspective,” said LaRocca. “He wanted to meet the partners that were unhappy for some reason. He wanted to understand that point of view and see if there was a solution to it. Actually he liked hearing the bad more than good. He could do something with it.”

LaRocca said partners appreciated Hurd’s honesty and candor. “Partners knew when they talked to Mark they would get it straight,” said LaRocca. “How many people can you say that about? Most try to color it or only tell you the good side. Mark was there to tell you exactly how it is. If you asked him a question you got an honest answer. He spent a disproportionate amount of time with the channel because he knew how important was in the go to market strategy. He knew the value of the channel and was a consummate professional. He was one of a kind.”

Additional reporting by CRN Senior Editor Joseph Tsidulko