February 27, 2024

Meg Whitman Is Named Hewlett-Packard Chief

The upheaval at H.P. came after several weeks of mounting concerns among board members, senior executives and investors about how the former chief, Léo Apotheker, had handled a major strategy shift at the company announced last month, according to interviews with several people briefed on the board’s discussions.

While the board still endorses the strategy change — which includes a possible spinoff of its personal computer business, the closing of a line of mobile devices and the $11.7 billion acquisition of the software maker Autonomy — its members felt that Mr. Apotheker had bungled communicating the plans to H.P. employees and outsiders.

“It’s not about the strategy, it’s about the guy,” said one of the people with knowledge of the board’s discussions, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

In an interview, Ms. Whitman, who became a member of the board this year, said the process that had led to Mr. Apotheker’s ouster took place over about three months, and came to a head in late August. Once she was aware that she would be a candidate to succeed him, she said, she recused herself from the selection of a successor.

Talking about why she chose to accept the role, she said, “This is a chance to help turn around an American icon,” adding that “we’ve got our hands full.”

In an earlier conference call with Wall Street analysts, Ray Lane, the company’s executive chairman, was asked whether hiring Ms. Whitman had been “hasty and premature.” He replied that the board had revisited the results of the search done before hiring Mr. Apotheker, but wanted “to reach inside” H.P. Despite her brief tenure solely as a board member, he said Ms. Whitman was viewed as an insider.

In one change from Mr. Apotheker’s plans, Ms. Whitman told investors in the conference call that H.P. would reach a decision about the fate of its PC business by the end of the year, rather than next year.

She said in the interview that H.P. would remain committed to the sale of computer hardware, drawing a distinction between herself and Mr. Apotheker. “He was a software executive who thought there was a faster-growing, higher-margin business in software,” she said, but “it will not transform the company.”

H.P. did not reveal any details about Mr. Apotheker’s exit package, though it is expected to in the coming days. After analyzing Mr. Apotheker’s contract, James F. Reda Associates, a compensation consulting firm, estimated he could get as much as $38 million in total compensation, including severance, salary and other items, from his 11 months working at H.P.

A hint of trouble for Mr. Apotheker surfaced two weeks ago, when Dominique Senequier, an H.P. director and chief executive of a private equity firm, notified the company that she planned to leave the board early next year, a fact disclosed in a company filing with securities regulators.

The decision by Ms. Senequier, who was known to be close to Mr. Apotheker, was prompted by a concern about Mr. Apotheker’s fate at the company, according to the person familiar with the board’s discussions.

Dissatisfaction with Mr. Apotheker had been building since he was named to lead the company less than a year ago, but the concerns boiled over beginning on Aug. 18, said Mr. Lane.

That was when H.P. hastily announced that it was exploring a sale or spinoff of its PC business into a separate company, after portions of the news became public earlier in the day, and disappointing quarterly earnings.

The changes caught many H.P. executives off-guard; Todd Bradley, the executive in charge of its PC business, received less than 24 hours’ notice, according to a person close to Mr. Bradley.

The uncertainty about the future of the PC business also created uneasiness among the company’s big corporate customers, causing concern among H.P.’s board that it could contribute to weakness in its PC sales.

Quentin Hardy and Eric Dash contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 22, 2011

An earlier version of the capsule summary for this article misstated Ms. Whitman’s given name as Angela. As the article and picture caption correctly note, it is Meg.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=02d43fc8288923b272c93a515f4ad200

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