|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Hewlett-Packard Co named former eBay Inc Chief Executive Meg Whitman its president and CEO, replacing the harshly criticized Leo Apotheker in a bid to restore investor confidence in the iconic Silicon Valley company.
The decision was made without a formal CEO search and piled renewed criticism on the board, which investors have blamed -- at least in part -- for the storied company's recent missteps.
Chairman Ray Lane, who becomes Executive Chairman with a mandate to help Whitman run a sprawling $120 billion empire with over 300,000 employees, tried to assure disillusioned investors by saying HP is making a fresh start with a new CEO and -- crucially -- a virtually revamped board of directors.
Lane vowed that the days of board dysfunction -- the wire-tapping scandal, the firing of Mark Hurd after a sexual harassment probe, and the hiring of Apotheker -- were over.
The board works well together, he said.
"It's amazing how they challenge the management team, challenge each other," Lane said in an interview. "They are smart, they bring great insight to the table and I think we make good decisions."
Analysts had speculated that Apotheker's departure might presage a backtracking on major decisions taken during his 11-month term and announced -- back to back in haphazard fashion -- on August 18. But HP reassured investors on a conference call the board will not reverse course.
"I don't think we ought to be going back in history. This board did not select Leo. This is not the board that was around for pretexting," Lane said, referring to the scandal in which HP hired investigators who impersonated its board members and journalists to obtain their phone records.
"This is not the board that fired Mark Hurd," he noted. "We are embarrassed about the communications of decisions that could have been done much better. But we carefully considered the decisions made. It is our operating execution that needs to improve."
Whitman, an Internet retail expert with a mixed track record, is not an obvious choice to revive HP, analysts said. The failed California gubernatorial candidate transformed eBay from a few dozen employees in 1998 into a global Internet retail powerhouse, but the final years of her reign were marked by sputtering growth, intensifying Wall Street criticism and a string of unwise acquisitions, including of Skype.
She has been an HP director about eight months. While her elevation surprised many with its seeming hastiness -- for the second time, internal candidates such as enterprise chief David Donatelli were passed over -- Apotheker's ejection had been a matter of time.
He becomes the third straight HP CEO shown the door.