HP VARs stunned by Hurd exit

Partners mourn loss of Mark Hurd, channel champion and turnaround artist at Hewlett-Packard.

Mark Hurd's sudden resignation on Friday as Hewlett-Packard Co.'s CEO caused an uproar among HP partners.

The distraction factor alone is off the charts. "My phone has not stopped ringing since Friday," said Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, a longtime HP VAR based in Green Bay, Wis.

Chernick said customers called and emailed him about the news. "It was nothing malicious, but I had told them that [Hurd and our company] had a relationship," he said.

Several HP VARs agreed that Hurd's accessibility was important for their business and lauded the fact that he took a lot of time to meet with HP VARs around the country and at HP's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters.

David Dadian, CEO of Powersolution.com, a Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., HP partner agreed that Hurd was an asset for partners. "I liked Carly too, the difference being I had access to Hurd," he noted, referring to former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, whom Hurd replaced five years ago.

Hurd's resignation came after an investigation into a relationship between Hurd and an outside consultant. While that inquiry determined that there was no violation of HP's sexual harassment policy, it found violations of HP's standards of business conduct.

Dadian, a 15-year HP partner, said the news came as a big shock. "I don't know what impact it will have overall. We know what his capabilities were as CEO -- he did turn the company around."

Like Chernick, Dadian relished the fact that Hurd made himself available to partners. "He responded to an email I sent on July 4, 2008, and pointed me in the right direction. I had a minor relationship with him but the fact that you, as a partner, could reach out and get him, was huge."

One partner said he expects some distraction in the short term, but things will sort themselves out. "HP has a deep bench of good execs," he said. "And, listen, it is what it is. Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, Mark Hurd -- life goes on."

Not every HP partner was a Hurd fan. An executive with a large New England-based HP VAR disagreed that Hurd was a friend to the channel and said he contributed to problems within HP. This partner said the deep personnel cuts at HP were probably necessary, but Hurd seemed unfazed by the personal toll they took on good employees.

"The morale at HP was at an all-time low. He was not dealing with the Cisco fight well and created an anti-partner atmosphere," this partner said.

This VAR executive expects HP to tap an outsider as its next CEO.

HP CFO Cathie Lesjack will act as interim CEO but asked that she not be considered for the permanent slot. Speculation among some partners is that Ann Livermore might make a good candidate. Others said they expect Todd Bradley , a former Palm executive who is now executive vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group to throw his hat into the ring.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director at bdarrow@techtarget.com, or follow us on twitter.

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