Saturday, September 24, 2011

HP CEO Swap (Short Take)

This sign welcomes visitors to the headquarter...Image via WikipediaNot a lot to say on the whole HP CEO debacle right now but I did want to note a few things.

Clearly this story started a year back when the current board ousted Mark Hurd and hired Apotheker. Whether the decision to fire was right or wrong I don't know. What I do know though is that it was done hastily and apparently with minimal thought based on the outcome. It isn't a surprise then that the HP board did such a sub par job again this time. I'm not referring to Whitman who should almost certainly be an improvement over Apotheker, but rather to the very public way in which the whole thing played out. That was unfair to Apotheker, unfair to HP's employees and unfair to their shareholders as well. It betrayed a lack of professionalism and ethics that was kind of disturbing.

I have no clue who the leaks came from but I very much question the suitability of the source or sources to be looking out for HP shareholders interests.

The last thing I wanted to note is that Apotheker's biggest mistake may arguably have been talking about selling or spinning off HP's low margin PC business. If he'd had a serious buyer lined up or plan in place this might have made sense since it would have let shareholders know that HP's margins would be under less pressure in the future. Apparently though neither scenario was in place so the net outcome was a lot of businesses that normally buy HP started looking at other vendors due to uncertainty over the PC divisions future.

Whitman has the advantage of coming into the middle of a train wreck in progress. Almost anything she does is going to look better than what her predecessor accomplished. I think it makes sense to spin the PC division off or sell it if a serious buyer can be found, but that planning/negotiation needs to take place behind closed doors and not discussed until a firm plan is in place.

A thorough review and housecleaning of the current board would be a great idea as well but that's going to require outside intervention.

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  1. Heard on the radio that Apotheker could not visit HP HQ in Silicon Valley because Larry Ellison of Oracle has court action against Apotheker. Ellison charges that Apotheker stole IP from Oracle while Apotheker was at SAS. The way I understood the story, HP & Oracle HQs are located in the same proximity and if Apotheker came within some number of miles of Ellison, Apotheker could/would be served with papers to bring him to court.
    Assuming this is true, what a classic screw up by HP's board. They hire a leader that can not visit the corporate HQ. Hilarious! Now Whitman, who was on the board for Apotheker's hire, is taking the helm? No wonder investors are punishing HPs stock.

  2. Thanks for the info John, I hadn't heard that. Classically bad move that.

    I'm going to predict a rebound on their price if they can avoid any additional negative press over the next few weeks. Given their recent track record that will be tricky though.