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HP board ousts Apotheker, Whitman in as CEO

Former SAP CEO Leo Apotheker lasted less than a year in the job

By Chris Kanaracus, IDG News Service
September 22, 2011 04:20 PM ET

IDG News Service - Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker was ousted from his position on Thursday and replaced by HP director and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, less than a year after he took the job.

To successfully execute its strategy, the company requires "additional attributes" in its CEO, traits that Whitman possesses, HP said.

In addition to naming Whitman president and CEO, HP said that Ray Lane has now changed positions, from non-executive chairman of HP's board to executive chairman. The board "intends to appoint a lead independent director promptly," it added.

“We are fortunate to have someone of Meg Whitman’s caliber and experience step up to lead HP,” Lane said in a statement.

Whitman is "a technology visionary with a proven track record of execution," and a "strong communicator," he added. "Furthermore, as a member of HP’s board of directors for the past eight months, Meg has a solid understanding of our products and markets.”

"I am honored and excited to lead HP," Whitman said in a statement. "I believe HP matters – it matters to Silicon Valley, California, the country and the world.”

Rumors had swirled in recent days that HP's board was about to part ways with Apotheker, a former CEO of business software vendor SAP. Only a tiny amount of HP's business currently comes from software, a fact Apotheker sought to change in a strategy he laid out soon after joining the company in September 2010.

Apotheker came to HP at a turbulent time following the departure of its high-profile CEO, Mark Hurd, after a scandal involving his relationship with an HP contractor. Hurd ended up securing a post as co-president of HP rival Oracle.

The market did not react well to a number of announcements and moves Apotheker made, including the planned purchase of infrastructure software vendor Autonomy and talk of spinning off HP's PC division. This last topic sparked a major downturn in HP's stock price, which may have quickened Apotheker's removal.

Overall, the HP experience must have had an element of deja vu for Apotheker, given the trouble he experienced as sole CEO of Germany-based SAP.

A long-time SAP executive, Apotheker ultimately lasted less than a year in the top post there as well, and was replaced by insiders Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott in February 2010 as SAP returned to the co-CEO format it had used in the past.

"I think that Apotheker came into something of a thankless job," said Charles King, president and principal analyst with Pund-IT. "It's difficult for any CEO to come into a company that is in turmoil, which HP clearly was after the ouster of Mark Hurd."

Still, moves such as the possible PC business spinoff "may simply have been too radical a surgery for the market to stand," King added.

Other big factors leading to the change in leadership were HP's missing its financial targets in three recent quarters and paying a lot of money to get deeper into the software business through acquisitions like Automony and Vertica without giving a clear strategy for the future, according to IDC analyst Crawford Del Prete.

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