No Big Wake Following Capellas Exit

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2002-11-18

Michael Capellas cut a high profile during the proxy battle that preceded Hewlett-Packard Co.s $18.5 billion buyout of Compaq Computer Corp., and in the six months since the two companies have officially become one.

But Capellas departure as president of HP, which was announced last week, will have little immediate impact on the Palo Alto, Calif., company, although there could be ramifications down the road, say customers and industry observers.

What remains to be seen is how HP Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina will handle her expanded role, since Fiorina announced she will not replace Capellas but instead assume his duties of running day-to-day operations of the worlds second-largest computer company.

Some observers expressed the concern that the departure of Capellas, the former chairman and CEO of Compaq, will lead to other ex-Compaq executives departing.

Mark Cornelius, senior IT manager for Borden Chemicals Inc., in Columbus, Ohio, said his greatest concern is whether Capellas is leaving because he wants to pursue other jobs or if his departure is an indication that the HP side will swallow Compaq whole. "Theyve done a super job in laying out the road maps for their products and what our expectations are," said Cornelius, whose company uses Compaq and HP technology. "Nothing is encouraging me to jump ship because of [Capellas departure]."

"HP will not be deeply impacted by his loss, although some of his lieutenants may end up departing, now that they have lost his sponsorship," said Cal Braunstein, chairman and CEO of a research company, Robert Frances Group Inc., in Westport, Conn.

Jeffrey Clarke, executive vice president of integration at HP and the former chief financial officer at Compaq, disagreed. Clarke and other key ex-Compaq executives, such as Peter Blackmore, vice president of HPs Enterprise Systems Group, have bought houses near HPs headquarters and are reaffirming their commitment to HP.

Clarke said that much of the decision making lies with the companys executive team, of which Capellas was one of 16. "We will make key decisions about execution and strategy through our executive team, where we have 15 people," Clarke said.

On being No. 2 to Fiorina, Capellas, Friday morning in a conference call, said: "Did I always know at one time Id want to be a CEO again? Sure, thats natural ... but Carly and I have a great relationship. ... Everyones doing well [at HP]. It was a great story."

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