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The HP CEO Circus

Will Meg Whitman be that turnaround leader at HP?

HP just announced a new CEO, Meg Whitman after ousting Leo Apotheker who served less that a year as CEO.  During Leo’s time, HP’s market value went down by 44%. It is hard to believe HP’s market valuation hovers around $50B.

Mark Hurd rescued HP after Carly Fiorina was kicked out by the board. Under her watch, HP made the biggest acquisition (Compaq). Mark cut costs and tightened operations to show better profitability. But innovation for which HP is known from the start, took a back seat. Last year Mark Hurd had to leave for inappropriate conduct. The board quickly appointed Leo Apotheker, a software executive from SAP to lead the company. During the last eleven months, much confusion was created. First HP said it would promote the tablet based on Palm’s operating system WebOS. Then three months later, the tablet was abandoned. HP also said it would spin-off the PC unit, creating much confusion to their competitors' delight. Last an acquisition of a British software company called Autonomy at a highly inflated price of $10B (revenue less than $1B) was heavily criticized by experts. These mis-steps have caused a steady decline in revenue and share value. The board was forced to fire Leo Apotheker.

But why Meg Whitman? She joined the HP board after losing California’s governorship to Jerry Brown. Previously she served as the CEO of eBay, a consumer goods exchange company. What makes Meg the right leader for HP at this juncture? She has no enterprise-hardware-software experience. Under Leo, and with the board’s approval, HP has been shifting more toward a software and services company much like IBM and Oracle. It's unclear if Meg Whitman can steer HP toward that goal. Why not Ann Livermore, who served at HP as a senior executive for decades? She definitely understands HP’s core competency and DNA better than any outsider.

Let us watch over next six months if Meg Whitman will be that turnaround leader at HP.

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More Stories By Jnan Dash

Jnan Dash is Senior Advisor at EZShield Inc., Advisor at ScaleDB and Board Member at Compassites Software Solutions. He has lived in Silicon Valley since 1979. Formerly he was the Chief Strategy Officer (Consulting) at Curl Inc., before which he spent ten years at Oracle Corporation and was the Group Vice President, Systems Architecture and Technology till 2002. He was responsible for setting Oracle's core database and application server product directions and interacted with customers worldwide in translating future needs to product plans. Before that he spent 16 years at IBM. He blogs at http://jnandash.ulitzer.com.

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