HP replaced Leo Apotheker with Meg Whitman as its new CEO late last week, and HP partners are split on whether Whitman will provide stability for the company that’s been in turmoil since August.
Hewlett-Packard Co. stock was at its lowest in six years last Friday (at $21.90) after Whitman was named CEO, and the company’s indecision since former CEO Mark Hurd’s departure has many partners in wait-and-see mode.
“I’m not sure a $120 billion company can keep changing directions every eight to 10 months,” said Paul Shoberg, director of sales for Works Computing Inc. “The jury is still out [on Whitman], and the proof is in the pudding with these misfires. The board of directors doesn’t have a strong history with recent CEO decisions.”
Whitman served as vice president of strategic planning at Walt Disney Co. and as CEO at eBay Inc. for 10 years, where she helped increase annual revenue from $4 million in 1998 to $8 billion in 2008. Recently, she ran unsuccessfully to be elected governor of California. Though she had been sitting on HP’s board of directors since January 2011, running an IT supergiant worth $125 billion like HP will be a unique challenge for Whitman.
Dave Dadian, CEO of powersolution.com, thinks Whitman is a better fit at HP than recently-ousted CEO Leo Apotheker.
“She was a very good choice who’s more than equipped for the task with her successful track record at Stride Rite, Hasbro and eBay,” Dadian said. “She understands business and economics, and her upbringing has honed her skills.”
HP needs to simplify
Whitman has said that, while it’s still a hardware company, HP won’t veer from its software-heavy approach from the past year. According to Dadian, HP has complicated things for itself and Apotheker created an unnecessary diversion by announcing that it might spin off its PC business.
“HP should stabilize itself and stick to its core -- servers, networking and infrastructure -- and not worry about other companies like IBM,” Dadian said. “The timing [to sell the PC business] just isn’t right at the moment and Leo was trying to cram it in.”
Shoberg said that morale has been tough since Hurd left and that, culturally, there’s work to be done. He maintained that if HP focuses on stakeholder equity and not just shareholders’ equity, it will make life easier for everyone involved.
“It is frustrating, because I think the world of HP -- I do hope Meg kicks butt because Leo [Apotheker] was absent so often,” he said. “They need to concentrate on the entire value chain -- suppliers, employees, customers, etc. Look at Apple. Their employees like working there, and even their suppliers think they’re tough but fair.”
When it comes to HP’s decision about what to do with its PC business, Shoberg said the smartest thing the company can do is analyze the yearly HP voice of the workforce survey. The survey is an anonymous tool for HP to gauge workforce morale and solicit input from the field. “They need to take a long look at the survey and see what employees are thinking,” he said. “The worst thing it can do is let [the PC business] linger.”
Update: According to Bloomberg, HP hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to be ready for potential moves activist investors who question HP’s decisions.