Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 23, 2011

HP names Meg Whitman new CEO

Board: She has right attributes to execute company strategy

Former eBay CEO and 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman will become president and CEO of HP effective immediately, the company announced Thursday. Whitman replaces Leo Apotheker, who departs after less than a year on the job.

In a statement, the HP board said Whitman, who herself joined the HP board eight months ago, possesses "additional attributes" to help the company execute its strategy.

"We are at a critical moment, and we need renewed leadership to successfully implement our strategy and take advantage of the market opportunities ahead," said Ray Lane, executive chairman of the board.

Whitman said she supports recent decisions on the strategic direction of the company, but intends to review them in her new capacity.

"I will take a very hard look, but from what I know now the strategy is right," she said in a conference call with analysts.

A strategic decision on the company's Aug. 18 announcement that it will sell or spin off its personal computer business, the Personal Systems Group (PSG), is a high priority, she said.

"In the end, the only way to rebuild confidence in this company is to get results, and that's what I intend to do," Whitman said.

"The best thing we can do is get to a decision on PSG as fast as possible," she said.

She also reaffirmed the company's commitment to its hardware business, including servers and networking equipment.

HP's purchase of the British software company Autonomy will be completed by the end of the year, she said.

"Meg is a technology visionary with a proven track record of execution," Lane said.

"She is a strong communicator who is customer focused with deep leadership capabilities."

Whitman said, "I am honored and excited to lead HP. I believe HP matters -- it matters to Silicon Valley, California, the country and the world."

Lane said the board considered hiring an interim CEO to replace Apotheker, but after considering internal and external candidates, it decided Whitman was "the strongest" person to lead the company.

Lane said the decision to fire Apotheker revolved around concerns about executive team cohesion, execution of strategy and communication to customers and shareholders. He referenced three consecutive quarters of lower-than-expected financial performance.

Board members "very much appreciate" Apotheker's efforts since he joined the company last year, he said.

Apotheker was appointed to head HP last Sept. 30, replacing Mark Hurd. Hurd resigned in August 2010 after the company said it found discrepancies in his expense reporting and investigated sexual harassment allegations against him.

Chris Kenrick

Comments

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2011 at 10:13 am

Meg Whitman would be a good improvement over Apotheker. Under Apotheker's tenure, HP seems to have grown stale. He made a major blunder in announcing the possibility of selling or dividing off the PC business (which would ironically RAISE the cost of creating business computers).

Since California voters were unwilling to give her a chance, perhaps she can show her stuff at HP.


Posted by Samuel, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2011 at 10:57 am

"He made a major blunder in announcing the possibility of selling or dividing off the PC business (which would ironically RAISE the cost of creating business computers)."


Interesting:
Web Link
"While Mr. Apotheker is going, his strategy, including consideration of spinning off H.P.'s personal computer business from other parts of the company, will remain in place."


Posted by David, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

My guess is the deliberations went something like this:

"We need to fire this guy. We need a new CEO right away. Has anyone in the room ever managed a tech company? Meg?"

I think she would have been fine as an interim choice while they searched for a permanent CEO, but I don't see how her background at eBay is very relevant at HP. No relationships with large enterprise customers, no hardware background, no services background - hard to see that she has ANY relevant experience other than running a very different tech company.


Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 22, 2011 at 11:37 am

Sounds like a lot of HP employees had better spruce up their resumes in anticipation of a big layoff.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Yeah, gotta agree w/David; she doesn't have the right experience for long term. But would rather see her at HP than back in politics!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Such a shame that she didn't get elected Governor. We could do with that sort of business attitude in the State, getting rid of those doing nothing but paperpushing and not kowtowing to the Unions.

I think she would have done a lot more than Jerry Brown has done to put California on the right track.


Posted by meg, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Meg did well at EBay when it was a small company. Then the company got too big for her to handle and did a terrible job for years. Then she did a terrible job running for governor, spending records amounts of money in an ineffective campaign. Now she is leading a coup at HP. With her track record, Palo Alto had better get ready for lots of unemployed residents. Since Palo Alto kicked Facebook out of town, those jobs are not going to stay in Palo Alto.


Posted by Gethin, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Whitman is a terrible idea. She has absolutely no experience in running a true technology company and in particular has no business experience in running a consulting business which will be an ever increasing part of HP's future. Also, HP is a mess, and she has no experience in stabilizing or turning around anything, let alone an aircraft carrier like HP.
Although she grew eBay and made a personal fortune she alienated her employees and her customer community which is very bad news for moving HP forward. And basically eBay fired her.
A terrible choice, lord knows why she is even on the board!


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2011 at 1:12 pm

@ "meg:"

Are you kidding? eBay THRIVED under Whitman's guidance! It has never been the same since she left. I know several eBay employees who truly miss her leadership.

At this point, I am just happy that Apotheker is being fired. His vision for HP of making it business-centric and irrelevant to everyday consumers was damaging the name and wonderful history of the company.

Hopefully, Whitman will have enough since to realize that the computer industry is still valuable to HP's corporate portfolio...and will actually EXPAND into the tablet market albeit without WebOS...which was a bad choice for acquisition to begin with.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm

It's official: Meg Whitman was just named CEO.


Posted by Charlie, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm

OK The last production run for Touchpad will be sold on Ebay instead. The ask price will be starting at $99. Good luck everyone.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm

@ cares:

I do -- a lower Middle class Hispanic woman.

And, obviously, the board members at HP do.

And, approximately 41% of California voters wanted her instead of Jerry Brown in the last gubernatorial election.

You do the math.


Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Wonder how long it will take the Unions to go postal, and strike here, there and everywhere?


Posted by ECR, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm

"approximately 41% of California voters wanted her"

and a huge 55% did NOT.

despite a gazillion dollars spent of her own money, record costs on a per vote basis, all wasted

not a good business decision, almost as bad as the skype decision

definitely worse than the paltry five grand for nicki diaz decision that lost her the election

good for the state that she's not running again

bad news for the bay area cuz she will outsource more jobs overseas


Posted by Poor H-P, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 22, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Whitman? Oy vey!

Misters Hewlett and Packard must be spinning in their graves faster than an HP Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) Enterprise Hard Drive at 10k-RPM.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Amazing at how many HP experts come out of the woodwork every time there is a change or announcement.

A better bet is to see what Larry Ellison thinks-he had Leo pegged.

And maybe based on what he is saying now time to short Google. Like him or not he is right most of the time..


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Sorry, Nayeli, Nutmeg made some serious blunders at Ebay in her later years there.

If she really wants to do things the HP way, she'll start forking over more of her family fortune to charity. Privilege brings responsibility and all of that.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2011 at 10:34 pm

HP started circling the drain when they hired Fiorina. This will hasten the death, and end the suffering.


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 23, 2011 at 6:56 am

Whithman is a saleswoman, not a high tech executive. She was terrible during her last years in eBay, way out of her league. She has very little substance, that's why she couldn't fool California voters into electing her governor, even while spending a 150 million dollars to try and buy the governorship. She would have made a terrible governor and she will fail at HP.


Posted by Samuel, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2011 at 11:21 am

People at HP better learn not to upset Meg:

Web Link
"Whitman became frustrated with her handler, Young Mi Kim, and, at some point, pushed her. Kim threatened a lawsuit, settled with the company in the neighborhood of $200,000, and later returned to work there."

and
Web Link

This kind of behavior could end up costing HP big bucks.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2011 at 11:46 am

Samuel, my thoughts echoed yours. After Hurd, why take the risk of a CEO who grabs the wrong type of attention? I'm wondering if she cajoled & bullied her way into the CEOship.


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm

eBay is an electronic garage sale. Whitman is a lightweight. She also happens to be a [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] person who alienates and mistreats her subordinates. HP is in big trouble if they keep appointing gravitas-less lightweights like Fiona and Whitman to run the company.


Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:29 pm

CEO's and Boards of Directors. A close knit circular group, looking out for one another.


Posted by Samuel, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Web Link
"Hewlett-Packard Co.'s stock sank Friday to its lowest level in six years, as investors worried that new CEO Meg Whitman isn't the right person to turn the company's fortunes around."

Any comments, Sharon?


Posted by Former HP'r, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm

This should provide a basis for a shareholder lawsuit! While Apotheker had to go, Whitman is a joke to run the company. Here's hoping she doesn't kill it and that they get serious about getting a real leader. Let's also hope they fire Ray Lane--a major part of the problem. One could almost think he still works for Ellison, the way his "leadership" has sent the stock price down. Really clean house and get back on track!


Posted by litebug, a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm

(former resident)

For a hearty laugh I refer you to Wonkette's take on this:

Web Link

Had hoped we'd seen the last of both Whitman and Fiorina but no such luck.


Posted by itsahit, a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm

distribute the wealth to the poor.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Wow -- so much misguided HATE for Meg Whitman! This is very disappointing...especially since most of you have never met her...and many others might be motivated by the fervor from political disagreement.

Since HP is a historic company located in our town...here's to hoping that the company prospers under Whitman's watch (and that she disproves all of the naysayers through great decision making).

:-)


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Nayeli, how can you actually thinks she's the right person to run this particular company? I honestly thinking you're mistaking her drive/aggression/ambition w/engineering knowledge. She might have supposed business knowledge, but HP's a whole different animal than places Nutmeg's worked before.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2011 at 9:42 pm

@ Hmmm:

First of all, her name is not "Nutmeg." It is sad that people have to resort to juvenile name-calling in an effort to try and reinforce their opinions. You don't have to like her or her political views, but mocking her name is silly.

Secondly, she has a pretty good track record leading a large, multifaceted company. As badly as things have been going for HP for the last decade, I suspect that a different approach is necessary.

Finally, why not just give her a chance? She isn't a moron...and the board will be watching her decisions closely. She doesn't have to be an engineer to run a company successfully. In fact, it is the BUSINESS aspect of HP that has been suffering -- and NOT the technical aspect. HP still produces great products. Their business decisions, however, have left a lot to be desired.

Since this is a local company, can't we just wish her the best?


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 24, 2011 at 5:58 am

Those who claim that HP's problem are on;y business oriented and not technical are dead wrong. HP's products are a shadow of what they used to be, and the company has lost its way during the Fiona regime. Beside not being an engineer, Whitman is a backstabber and self promoter. She is the the absolute worst choice to save HP, which is probably in the midst of a death spiral right now.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2011 at 11:40 am

Nayeli, I agree w/Daniel. I call her Nutmeg because I get to; I don't care if it sounds immature. Americans love to nickname politicians & it's my pet name for her. She also really didn't do that great at Ebay in recent years.

But even if I didn't abhor her politics but thought she was a good leader for HP, I'd say so. That's not the case. I know companies change, but many of us natives of the valley are very fond of the oldies such as HP. It makes me sad to see what's happened there under the last couple of regimes.

Her ability/inability to lead HP has nothing to do w/smarts; clearly, she's intelligent & driven. But this whole thing smacks of classic boardroom manipulation, not solid choice-making. I'm very happy to be proven wrong, because that would be wonderful for HP, its stockholders & employees, as well as the valley. We shall see.


Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Board members selecting one of their own for any position other than an interim position, while a real national search is conducted, is really just another variation of nepotism. It shows a real lack of ability and strength on the part of the board. I'm predicting that stockholders have had enough of their incompetence, and will either oust them all or simply off the stock.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2011 at 1:19 pm

@ Hmmm...

I don't think that calling this woman "Nutmeg" just "sounds" immature. It is a below-the-belt cheap shot that is probably best avoided -- especially since you probably don't even know the woman.

You may rightfully criticize the end of her tenure at eBay (although, like so many others, you are short on specifics), but even her biggest critics admit that she brought that company from a small online presence into a major player in the internet.

I too am disappointed with HP's current standing in the market. However, I am confident that Meg Whitman will either help or become the latest in a line of unemployed CEOs from HP.

As for a contrast: I suspect that she will do a much better job than the man who was most recently dismissed. Leo Apotheker's greatest flaw as a CEO was his inability to communicate effectively to customers and shareholders. He botched the announcement of key acquisitions and new direction for which the company was possibly headed (even giving conflicting information about some of it).

Regardless of what you think of her skills or politics, Meg Whitman is an effective business communicator. This is probably her greatest skill-set -- which is vital for such a publicly traded mega-company. While she may not initially do too many things differently from Apotheker, she should immediately be able to better communicate that direction (which is vital for investors).

I do hope that she rethinks the decision to sell off the consumer PC business. While they want to focus on corporate options, the PC business is still a third of HP's income.

I have no problem with dropping the WebOS/Palm holdings, but I do believe that tablets are a wave of the future. Tablets are becoming important in homes, classrooms AND corporate environments. I visited a big store recently where the worker was using a tablet to check inventory for an item that I wanted!

I would hope that Whitman would consider the Windows 8 or Android operating platforms for a consumer tablet market. They could use the same "Touch Pad" technology (albeit a different name and look) in order to sell such items to a burgeoning market. From what I understand, the upcoming Windows 8 cross-platform operating system will be able to integrate PCs, tablets, phones and even gaming consoles. A Touch Pad type of tablet with Windows 8 would be interesting since it already sells the most Windows-based machines anyway.

Regardless, I think that it is premature to criticize Meg Whitman's tenure at HP until AFTER she has actually done something. She has only been announced for a day. HP's stock sits at $22.32 a share. Let's revisit this topic in a year and see if it goes up or down.

As a local company, we should only want for HP to succeed -- no matter who is watching over it. It isn't helpful to be prejudiced toward the woman before she has even had the opportunity to "show her stuff" or how her leadership can benefit the company as a whole.


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