Mark Hurd is no Carly Fiorina, and that is exactly what the Hewlett-Packard Co. board of directors was looking for in its new CEO.
Fiorina arrived at HP six years ago as a rising industry star, a flashy and charismatic personality charged with injecting new energy into a company that seemed out of step with the heady times of the Internet bubble.
By contrast, Hurd, the 48-year-old president and CEO of NCR Corp., who was named last week to replace Fiorina, comes to HP with the task of moving the worlds second-largest computer maker in the right direction.
"We wanted someone who could return this great company to sustained leadership and success," HP Chairman Patricia Dunn told reporters and analysts last week.
Dunn said they found that person in Hurd, a 25-year veteran of NCR, a Dayton, Ohio, company known for making ATMs, point-of-sale devices and data warehousing appliances.
Hurd helped steer NCR through troubled financial times after it was spun off by AT&T Corp. HPs board is hoping he can do the same in Palo Alto, Calif., for a company still trying to mesh after its $19 billion purchase of Compaq Computer Corp. in 2002 and a series of reorganizations under the prior regime.
Hurds appointment surprised many who had expected HP to dip into the ranks of major competitors such as IBM. NCR, with $5.9 billion in revenue last year and 28,500 employees, is a fraction of the size of HP, an $80 billion company with 150,000 workers.
However, like HP, NCR is an old-world tech company with multiple product lines, which at times has struggled to adapt in a fast-changing industry.
After the spinoff from AT&T in 1997, Hurd—as chief operating officer and, later, president and CEO— refocused NCR as a maker of self-service retail appliances while internally cutting costs and re-energizing marketing efforts. He also resisted pressure to spin off NCRs lucrative Teradata data warehousing business.
At HP, Hurd takes over a company with a broad product portfolio that touches everything from large enterprises to the smallest businesses, as well as the consumer market. HPs enterprise hardware business, in particular, has seen its sales fluctuate wildly since the Compaq merger. At the same time, Hurd will have to deal with the drain of executive talent from HP during Fiorinas tenure.
However, he got a boost from Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the Imaging and Personal Systems Group, who was considered the top internal candidate for the job. Joshi, in charge of not only HPs $24.2 billion printing business but also the PC segment, told reporters after Hurds appointment that he planned to stay with HP, giving Hurd a key executive to rely on.
Industry observers call Hurds appointment a bold move but one that could pay off for HP only if Hurd can scale his operational know-how to the industry behemoth.
"Hes demonstrated the ability to turn around troubled business units and companies and to make the tough decisions to cut costs," said Frank Gillette, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. Gillette said Hurds easygoing manner "will go over well at HP. That was something that was missing in the previous regime."
Umesh Ramakrishnan, vice chairman of the executive search company Christian & Timbers Inc., said that while Hurd may be a relative unknown, hes been in demand for several years by companies looking for new CEOs. Christian & Timbers, which placed Fiorina with HP six years ago, has approached Hurd several times over the past few years about his interest in other CEO jobs, and each time he turned them down, preferring to stay with NCR.
"Hes definitely been under consideration for a long time," said Ramakrishnan in Cleveland.