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Neil Davey

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Senior Content Manager

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HP axes second leader in a year

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Hewlett-Packard was subject to more top-level upheaval today after announcing that the former head of eBay was to replace incumbent Leo Apotheker as president and chief executive, less than a year after he took the job.

The high tech giant has appointed Meg Whitman, who has been a member of its board since January, as its new leader.
 
Whitman, who once ran for governor of California, is credited with building eBay into a global force but resigned from the company in 2008. She said in a statement: “I am honoured and excited to lead HP. I believe HP matters – it matters to Silicon Valley, California, the country and the world.”
 
Leo Apotheker had been in the top job at HP for less than a year, but had overseen a a drop in sales and a collapse in the company’s share price, seeing it plummet in market value by almost $60 billion. It is the second time in two years that he has been forced out of the chief executive’s chair.
 
Apotheker stood down from German business software maker SAP last year, after less than a year as head honcho there too. He took over at HP following the departure of former boss Mark Hurd, who resigned after an investigation into sexual harassment claims, and has been there only 11 months.
 
Meanwhile, former Oracle second-in-command Ray Lane has moved from being non-executive to becoming executive chairman of HP’s board, which said that it intends to appoint a lead independent director promptly. All of the leadership appointments announced became effective immediately and followed the decision that Apotheker resign.
 
In a statement, Lane said: “We are fortunate to have someone of Meg Whitman’s calibre and experience to step up to lead HP. We are at a critical moment and we need renewed leadership to successfully implement our strategy and take advantage of the market opportunities ahead.
 

Mixed views

With regards to Apotheker’s dismissal, he added: “The job of the HP CEO now requires additional attributes to successfully execute on the company’s strategy.” 

 
But the appointment has been heralded as one of Silicon Valley’s worst kept secrets, following widespread leaks of Whitman’s appointment yesterday. Ovum chief analyst, Carter Lusher, said at the time that, regardless of the truth of the rumours, the damage had already been done in terms of depicting HP as a company in disarray.
 
“These periods of turmoil at major vendors are never good for the company, the employees, and most especially the customers,” he said.
 
The move comes after an eventful few years of change for the company and made the board look indecisive. Lusher added: “That the board would be considering a change in CEO less that 10 months after Apotheker took over as CEO is a damning indictment of not just the new CEO, but also the board itself. Having approved the recent strategy changes, it seems spineless for the board just a month later to be potentially jettisoning that plan and its architect.”
 
But Mark Fabbi, an analyst at Gartners, was more upbeat.  “Meg Whitman is certainly a viable choice that can provide some stability and leadership to HP,” he said. “We can’t forget that they’re still a $130 billion company with strong or leadership positions in servers, PCs, networking and services. What we’ve seen is HP’s board moving to address the shortcomings in execution we’ve seen over the past nine months, as well as recognising that the core company is still a vital asset.
 
The most important thing in the short term, however, was to restore the confidence of both investors and buyers and the change in leadership was a step in the right direction, he added.
 
 
 
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Neil Davey

Senior Content Manager

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